Lower Elementary North Update: Week of February 9, 2015

LEN WkFeb9 2015 bframe

Working on two-digit multiplication with Jodi and the Montessori Flat Bead Frame.

There has been a lot of math work in Lower Elementary North recently, a veritable “math explosion” as guide Jodi put it. Read on to see all the different ways our Montessori Lower Elementary students learn math.

“This is a later piece of math material in Lower Elementary Montessori,” said Jodi. “It takes place just before abstraction. It’s reminiscent of the Large and Small Bead Frames, which are standing and kind of look like an abacus — like this Flat Bead Frame too. Here, he’s doing double-digit multiplication and it no longer has our green, blue, and red benchmarks on the beads for units, tens, hundreds, and thousands, and it goes a little bit higher than the other Bead Frames, all the way to the hundred millions, so it allows for greater number exploration. Yeah, fun!”

LEN WkFeb9 2015 math

The test questions — “Show me you’ve mastered these and we’ll move on to two-digits.”

The picture above is an example of how Montessori guides test their students. Jodi explained the impetus and the process:

“These two boys are biting at the bit to  learn double-digit multiplication with the Chequerboard, and it’s been a while since they last worked with the Chequerboard, but with this new resurgence of math in the room that’s been happening lately we’ve had a new love for math and new exploration of double-digit multipliers and divisors and all the kids are freaking out about it. These two boys are waiting for that presentation and I said, ‘Well, you can do the Chequerboard with a single-digit multiplier, prove to me that you can do it and if you pass the test I’ll allow you to do double-digit.'”

Math nerds!

“The greatest thing about Montessori,” Jodi continued, “is she built that into a lot of her materials, that they progress in a sequential manner, so if a child’s having difficulty in one area you can take that material out and deal with that difficulty before moving on.”

LEN WkFeb9 2015 tri

Working with a Montessori material they’ve known since Casa — the triangle drawer from the Geometry Cabinet — except now categorizing with proper nomenclature.

There was also some geometry work taking place this week.

“These are our Geometric Cabinet materials,” said Jodi, “and they are found in Casa where they would learn basic triangles, and they might get into scalene and isosceles triangle. Here, these girls are learning about the acute and obtuse angled triangles and breaking the triangles up and using measuring angles to try and identify them. They’re making a book with definitions of each triangle. It’s Carol’s field of interest these days; she’s been doing lots of geometry with them.”

LEN WkFeb9 2015 objects

Early work with money and it’s values; the Montessori Money Game — shopping for small objects.

The younger Lower Elementary North children are also apart of the recent math explosion, developing their addition and subtraction skills while also learning the value of money.

“In lieu of all of the bake sales that have been going on,” said Jodi, “we’ve really started to talk about the importance of money and these boys have been absolutely loving money lessons, and they’ve been waiting to do this shopkeeper activity where we have little objects and they all have prices, so they have to buy them and figure out what the change is. We’ve talked a little bit about rounding because we no longer have pennies and what that means. It’s a neat little introduction to money and exploring it’s value. They like to pull out the fifty dollar bill and the hundred dollar bill, and each little thing is only worth about two dollars, so I said to them ‘There’s no way you want to try and make change for a $100 when the item is only $2,’ so I tend to give them a toonie or a loonie and fifty cents.”

LEN WkFeb9 2015 fractions

Working with the Montessori Fraction materials, figuring out how many of each fractions make half a circle.

Some work with fractions was also going on in Lower North this week.

“Some of the year two and three children have been exploring fractions and learning about the name of each fraction,” said Jodi. “This is an extension of that where they examine equivalent fractions. They take a half and they’re figuring out what other fractions can be made into one half, so here there are two quarters, three sixths, four eighths, and five tenths, that all equal one half. They figure out if they can superimpose the other fraction pieces on the half to see if it’s an equivalent fraction, then they’ll label it; they’ll put 1/2 and then there’s an equals sign and they’ll put 1/2 = 2/4  =  3/6… . Once she has it all laid out with the materials we’ll come over and check it and if she’s made proper equivalent fractions then we move on to saying she can trace her equivalent fractions and cut them all out and paste them on paper, which is a great follow up; it’s so good to have them working with fine and gross motor skills and to visually create and see the fractions on paper.”

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As you’ve probably heard before, we also take advantage of opportunities to cook to give children an example of the practical applicabilities of math.

“If it has anything to do with Carol, there is a math side in there,” said Jodi. “Since we don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day in the classroom environment what we can do, the concept of it is very nice — to tell someone that they’re appreciated or loved is a very nice concept — so we came up with baking with all the kids, and Carol’s taken it on, thankfully,” Jodi joked, “and the kids are loving it. On Thursday we are going to put all the tables together, bring out the fancy tablecloths, and have a banquet-style lunch together and celebrate a little bit of being together. The kids have all come up with ‘kudos’ this week, we’ve been gathering a little tin of anonymous thank yous to different people in class and we’re going to take those out after lunch and thank all of our members of our class.”

LEN WkFeb9 2015 busy

The daily, busy nature of Lower Elementary North.

Finally this week, on top of all the math work in Lower North, all of our Montessori environments were visited by Amy Kelton, a consultant who came to work with us this week from the Shelton School in Dallas, Texas. Amy spent time observing and guiding in each environment (you can see her in the background of the busy Lower North scene above) and then met with the Casa and Elementary staff on separate days to help them improve how they offer differentiated learning (here’s an infographic explaining differentiated learning, albeit by a company trying to sell related tech — the top bit is most important).

“It was amazing,” Jodi said about Amy’s visit. “It’s great to have the opportunity to have, basically, a professional development day in the morning. It’s great to have someone else come in and give you strategies that you’ve never thought of that are tried and tested, to have someone else’s perspective. We’ve all been excited about putting all this new knowledge into practice and use in the classroom already.”

Jodi also wanted you to know that some of the children are currently working on projects to do with vertebrate animals and have been asked to bring in a shoebox from home to make dioramas.

“We’ve also abolished tablecloths [during lunch],” Jodi pointed out about another recent development in Lower North, “and have opted for placemats that the children are bringing in from home.”

The tablecloths required laundering each day, which Lower North realized was a big usage of energy.

“It seems to be a good choice. It was an eco-influenced decision. We thought about plastic placemats but at some point they have to become garbage. As long as you’re not a sloppy eater, most of them should only need to be washed at the end of each week.”

Remember, Lower North is now skating on Mondays, and we wanted to remind you that parents are very welcome and encouraged to come skate with us (we’ll take as much help as we can get to tie skates!).

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