Archive for January, 2011

More Math Vocabulary Strategies! Do these in Guided Math Groups

Posted on January 16, 2011. Filed under: Classroom environment, During the Guided Math Lesson, Elementary math, Graphic Organizers, Guided Math Introduction, Math is a Language | Tags: , , , , , |

Math Vocabulary Strategies:

Frayer Model; Semantic Feature Analysis Grid/Concept Definition; Semantic Map; Word Sort; Word Walls/ Games


Math Vocabulary Bingo


Math Vocabulary Notebook Template


Academic Vocabulary Games (some interesting ideas and templates)

Happy Mathing,

Dr. Nicki

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Top 5 Frequently Asked Questions About Word Walls

Posted on January 15, 2011. Filed under: Classroom environment, Elementary math, Math is a Language, Mathematical Proficiency | Tags: , , , |

1. Where do the words come from?

A variety of places.  Check your state and district’s math word list.  Check the current unit of study. Check old state tests.  Also think about the high frequency math words that keep coming back!  Often students fail math tests because of these culprits…words we assume they know.

2. Do I put all the words from forever up?

Absolutely not!  Only use the words from the current unit of study.  But, be sure to keep those other words alive and well through a variety of games like charades, concentration and bingo.

3.  Do I put all the words up at once or as I introduce them?

As you introduce them!  They should all make sense and be put up within a specific context.

4. ABC-123 Should I put them in ABC order?

Absolutely not! *Dr. Wahlstrom suggests clustering them by topic.

5.    Are they really that important?

Absolutely!  The immediate words of the unit serve as visual resource in the classroom. The pictures should reinforce the words. Remember to speak a language you need to know the vocabulary!

***Be sure to search and see the other vocabulary and word wall posts in this blog!


Happy Mathing,

Dr. Nicki

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Math Word Wall Ideas: 10 ways to get started

Posted on January 14, 2011. Filed under: Classroom environment, Elementary math, Math is a Language, Mathematical Proficiency | Tags: , , , |

Math word walls are super important. Math is a language and this is the vocabulary.  Remember that we have to not only put up the words but also put them into action.  Here are a few of my favorite math word wall sites:

1)      I love this pdf by by Dr. Deborah Wahlstrom.  It has some amazing ideas! You must scroll down to page 2 and look at the clustered word wall example.  Also be sure to read pages 4 & 5 about 5 Star words! An interesting concept that builds a collaborative approach to word work. So amazing!  Really Good Stuff!


3)      Also there is a link to this site! Another great example, based on the Frayer model.  Be sure to click on the image so you can see it up close.

4)      A smilebox full of ideas from Susan Muir

5)      More from Susan:

6)      NYC has a great collage of examples of word walls:

7)      Some more examples by NYC adopted for Special Education Students:

8)      Great Flashcards with the definition and/or picture.  Have the students draw the picture on the ones that don’t have it.  These cards can be used in a variety of ways: whole group (find your partner); partners (go fish; or concentration) individuals (concentration)

9)      Make your own cards with these pictures.

10) Great article on teaching math vocabulary.

Happy Mathing,

Dr. Nicki

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Ideas for Using Math Mats in Guided Math Groups: Part 3

Posted on January 13, 2011. Filed under: During the Guided Math Lesson, Elementary math, Graphic Organizers, Guided math, Manipulatives, Math is a Language, Mathematical Proficiency | Tags: , , , , , |

You want to make sure that students have some concrete experiences, some pictorial experiences and some abstract experiences.  With Math Story Mats I would start by acting out the stories with manipulatives.  Later, I would have the students draw out the stories.  Finally, I would have them write the words and symbols connected to the stories.   For this step, I would have number cards and math symbols so the students could show the number models.  I would also have them write out number models. Sometimes I would have them match the story problem with the number model and then model it on the math mat.

Grouws and Cebulla (2000) found that working with partners for problem solving increases student achievement. They also found that long term use of manipulatives increases math achievement.  With story mats you can have students working with partners and using manipulatives to represent their thinking.

  • Have stories written on task cards.  The students pull the cards and model the story with manipulatives to solve it.
  • Have students work in partners and one partner tells a story while the other one represents it on the math mat.
  • Have student’s tell their own story and represent it on the math mat as they are telling it and others listen.
  • Have a student tell a story and the group represents and solves it on their own individual math mats.
  • Remember to always have a small group discussion after the practice so students can concretize their learning.  Grouws and Cebulla found that this discussion helps raise student achievement because students get to hear others and think about their own reasoning.

***Be sure to search “Problem Solving” and “Word Problems” in this blog to find other related posts!


Grouws,D. & Cebulla, K. (2000).  Improving Student Achievement in Mathematics. Geneva, Switzerland: International Academy of Education International Bureau of Education.  Educational Practices Series 4.

Happy Mathing,

Dr. Nicki


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Using Math Mats in Guided Math Groups: Part 2

Posted on January 12, 2011. Filed under: During the Guided Math Lesson, Graphic Organizers, Manipulatives, Math is a Language, Mathematical Proficiency | Tags: , , , , , |

When using Math Story Mats it is really important to have a focus in the guided math group.  Think about what types of stories you are focusing on in that particular session.  CGI provides excellent resources for understanding and teaching story types. As you use the math story mats, be aware of telling different types of stories.  There are four types of stories for addition and subtraction and 5 types for multiplication and division:

Tons of Story Type Question Prompts!

It is important to practice these individual types with the students so they know how to solve them.  I would work on these story types with the mats one at a time and then I would start mixing them up.

***Be sure to search “Problem Solving” for other word problem/ problem solving posts in this blog!”

Happy Mathing,

Dr. Nicki


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Math Mats: A Great Scaffold for Problem Solving in Guided Math Groups Part I

Posted on January 11, 2011. Filed under: Elementary math, Graphic Organizers, Manipulatives, Math is a Language, Mathematical Proficiency | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Math mats are great ways to get students to problem solve.  They provide a context, which research states is extremely important (Kulm,1984; Bickmore-Band, 1993). This context is a scaffold that helps students understand what they are doing.  They are a type of  graphical organizer that allows students to see and act out the problems they are trying to solve.

Math mats also help to relieve some of the anxiety that  word problems cause among students.  Kouba, Brown, Carpenter, Lindquist, Silver & Swafford (1988) found that word problems cause a great deal of anxiety, which I would say hinders students’ problem solving abilities, often even before they get started.  Math mats can help to ease some of that anxiety by tapping into the familiar.

You can use math mats to introduce, demonstrate, reinforce, reteach and differentiate story problem types.    They also provide students a springboard for telling their own stories.

To do any of this though, you have to start with a great math mat.  Here are a few resources:

Sparklebox has great playdoh storytelling mats for all operations.

(I like the snowman mat at the bottom of the page)

***Be Sure to Search “Problem Solving” in this blog for other relevant posts.


Bickmore-Brand(1993). Implications for research in language arts for mathematical teaching. In J. Bickmore-Brand (Ed.) Language in Mathematics. Portsmouth, N.H. Heinemann.

Kouba,V.,Brown,C.,Carpenter,T.,Lindquist, M. Silver, E.,& Swafford  J.  (1988). Results of the Fourth NAEP assessment of mathematics: number, operations and word problems. Arithmetic Teacher, 34 14-19.

Kulm,G. (1984).  The classification of problem-solving research variables.  In G.A. Goldin & C.E. McClintock (Eds). Task Variables in mathematical Problem Solving. Philadelphia: The Franklin Institute Press.

Click to access RevisedMathProblem-SolvingStoryMatsresearch.pdf

Happy Mathing,

Dr. Nicki

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Math Word Wall Words: The Glue of Any Math Program

Posted on January 9, 2011. Filed under: Classroom environment, Graphic Organizers, Math is a Language, Mathematical Proficiency | Tags: , , |

Math word walls are way underutilized in classrooms.  We should only put up the words for the current unit of study, otherwise it gets way to crowded up there on the wall.  We should actively use the words from other units to play games at least once a week like charades, concentration and word/meaning/example match. Also we should set up ongoing folders with crossword puzzles and word find and define games made from Our word wall cards should have the word and an example.

The old links don’t work anymore so I found those great illustrated words elsewhere and uploaded them here. I have also added some new resources as well.

visual math word wall

more visual math words

MathWordWall1 (Multilingual Word Wall)

another example

another great resource

Happy Mathing!

Dr. Nicki

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January Math Ideas! Explore as a whole class and in small groups!

Posted on January 7, 2011. Filed under: Elementary math | Tags: , |

Here are a few great January Math Ideas!  Pick one and have some fun!

January Math Ideas by Dreambox

* January 15th is  Dr. Martin Luther King’s Birthday! Celebrated the 3rd Monday in January. (See timeline activity)

*January 19th is National Popcorn Day! Really! Lots of math opportunities there!

(great activities for upper elementary and middle school)

Happy Mathing,

Dr. Nicki

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The Importance of Students Setting Their Own Math Goals: Part 2

Posted on January 5, 2011. Filed under: Assessment, Differentiated Instruction, Graphic Organizers, Math Conferences, Mathematical Proficiency | Tags: , |

Happy New Year!

Hello Everyone.  Happy New Year! I wish you all an abundance of rich mathematical experiences this year.  What are your math goals?  What do you want to do as an educator?  What do you want your students to be able to do?  I am currently doing some research on student goal setting and how it looks across the grade levels.  Please write in and tell me what you do in terms of setting math goals with your students.

One thing I have been doing is having students reflect on their math tests!  This can be done individually, in small guided math groups or the whole class could be filling out the form at the same time. This has been so amazing.  I have developed a few forms but the gist goes like this:

  1. Take a look at your math test.  What’s the first thing you think?  How did you do overall?
  2. What was easy?
  3. What was difficult?
  4. What do you still need help with?
  5. What is your plan to learn the concepts you need to work on?


Here are some sites I have found interesting in terms of students setting goals:

Student Goal Setting Templates:

2 of my favorites from the link above:

Another good template:

Have your students set math goals online:

Scroll Down to Goal Setting: I especially like the mini-goal template and the secrets of goal setting poster…

Cedar Rapids Schools students at work setting goals:

Great Article

Happy Mathing,

Dr. Nicki

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The Importance of Students Setting Math Goals

Posted on January 4, 2011. Filed under: Assessment, Classroom environment, Differentiated Instruction, Mathematical Proficiency | Tags: , , , , |

It’s a New Year!  It’s time to think, reflect and plan…that leads me right into a discussion of setting math goals with students.  The research shows that verbal and visual feedback on performance has an impact on student achievement!  Students need to know how they are doing and how to get better at it.  They need time to process that information.  The research shows that when feedback is displayed in a graph format students “get it” even more (Fuchs & Fuchs; Gunter, Miller, & Venn, 2003; Sutherland & Snyder, 2007 cited in Figarola, Gunter, Reffel, Worth, Hummel, Gerber 2008). Moreover, researchers found that when students received feedback and set goals, they got better in math (Codding, Lewandowski, and Eckert 2005 cited in Figarola et. al 2008 ).

Figarola et. al, found that students both with and without dis/Abilities could benefit from  using computers to graph their math progress. These researchers argue that once teachers figure out how to automate the process of graphing the data, that it is easy and that “graphs serve as a powerful visual means to document student progress on an ongoing basis and can be shared with parents and administrators.”  Also, teachers can make quick instructional decisions based on the graphs.

Try graphing the data and having your students set goals based on that data!  When students know where they are going, they are much more likely to get there!


(See this article about first and second graders graphing the data and action planning and not only meeting but exceeding their goals!)

Happy Mathing,

Dr. Nicki


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