## Frequently Asked Questions

**1. Why do you say "maths" with an**

2. What do you hope to accomplish this year?

*s*?*As I've reviewed online resources, it seems that sites from Australia and the UK typically speak of maths, rather than math. Why is that? Is it just a "British thing," or is there meaning behind it? I believe there is meaning! Maths, after all, is short for mathematics. I want students--and their parents--to appreciate the broad scope of mathematics. It encompasses everything from economics to geometry, from basic computation to statistics, from logic to algebraic thinking. For anyone who has ever said they don't like math--or, even worse, that they aren't good at it--I want to help them see that math is truly many things!*2. What do you hope to accomplish this year?

*I recently heard a song that included the following lyric:*

I didn't test well

I couldn't do the hard math

The teacher said I'd have to learn it, said I'd need it later

That was not the truth

"Dumb Luck" Peter Cooper: The Lloyd Green Album (Red Beet Records, 2010)

First and foremost, I want to help your child see the value of mathematics. (That may have been a bad pun. And, if so, I apologize.) But I want your child to see that mathematics--and the thinking processes involved--are useful to us! We are all familiar with the refrain: "When are we ever going to use this?" As a teacher, I believe I owe my students an answer that question. Dr. Karen Karp, a mathematics educator at Johns Hopkins University, has stated that we are preparing our students today to be successful when they are thirty. I like that long view.

(Seriously, sometime when you have 3:22 to spare, check out this video and tell me decimals don't matter.)I didn't test well

I couldn't do the hard math

The teacher said I'd have to learn it, said I'd need it later

That was not the truth

"Dumb Luck" Peter Cooper: The Lloyd Green Album (Red Beet Records, 2010)

First and foremost, I want to help your child see the value of mathematics. (That may have been a bad pun. And, if so, I apologize.) But I want your child to see that mathematics--and the thinking processes involved--are useful to us! We are all familiar with the refrain: "When are we ever going to use this?" As a teacher, I believe I owe my students an answer that question. Dr. Karen Karp, a mathematics educator at Johns Hopkins University, has stated that we are preparing our students today to be successful when they are thirty. I like that long view.

(Seriously, sometime when you have 3:22 to spare, check out this video and tell me decimals don't matter.)

**3. Why do you spend the first few weeks on "foundations?"**

*I absolutely love the first few weeks of school. In fact, I wish we could do the first few weeks of school all year. Rather than jumping straight into the content standards, I simply want to help alleviate some "math anxiety." I want students to see that my classroom is a safe place to take risks. That there's still a lot to learn from a wrong answer. Above all, I want them to see that mathematics*__matters__. So we consider all the ways we rely on mathematics in our daily lives, then students write an essay envisioning "A World Without Maths." As they share newspaper clippings, students think about ways we communicate using "Numbers In The News." We watch a PBS documentary called "The Great Math Mystery" and explore the deep question: Was mathematics discovered or created? We learn about logic, work some puzzles, and play some games, including a game using the binary system. Because what better way to understand the decimal system--which we use everyday--than by first learning to master the patterns of a system that is brand new to most students? This is a springboard for the rest of the year. It gives meaning to everything else we do, and I believe this foundation is absolutely critical.**4. Will my child be ready for the state assessment in May?**

**I can assure you that we will cover all the mathematics content that will be on the KPREP assessment for grade 5. However, I will also note that our grade level covers a lot of standards. In order to help your child be ready, I will be emphasizing two things. The first is the thread of connectedness that runs through all mathematics. Too many people view mathematics in terms of discrete skills. If your child sees that fractions, decimals, and percentages are merely three ways of expressing the same number--and can further explain how all are related to the process of division--she will be at a distinct advantage this year. The second thing that will be absolutely critical is developing a fluency in the eight Standards for Mathematical Practice. The state assessment measures students' abilities to analyze new information, problem solve, and communicate mathematically.**

**Demonstrating proficiency on KPREP requires the application of skills. Knowing how to calculate well is simply not enough.**

**5. Will my child be using a textbook in this class?**

*No. It has been several years since our last textbook purchase. (It was certainly before I came to Natcher five years ago.) The last series we used, Go Math!, was consumable. That means students worked directly in the paperback textbooks, so new books were ordered each year. Now that that resource is gone, we do not have textbooks. Some would say that standards change so frequently--and so much content is available online--that textbooks simply are not a good investment.*

My solution has been to utilize this website for my daily mathematics instruction. It is easy for me to update with fresh content, it is a great way to communicate with families, and students can access it anywhere that the internet is available.

I will also note that I am going to pilot a book called Simple Solutions this year. This is more of a supplemental workbook, rather than a traditional textbook. And the content spirals, so I will have to figure out how to stay in line with our district curriculum map. But I am glad to have it. In my opinion, putting one more resource in the hands of students and families is always a good thing.My solution has been to utilize this website for my daily mathematics instruction. It is easy for me to update with fresh content, it is a great way to communicate with families, and students can access it anywhere that the internet is available.

I will also note that I am going to pilot a book called Simple Solutions this year. This is more of a supplemental workbook, rather than a traditional textbook. And the content spirals, so I will have to figure out how to stay in line with our district curriculum map. But I am glad to have it. In my opinion, putting one more resource in the hands of students and families is always a good thing.

**6. What is the deal with Common Core math? Has math changed since we were kids?**

**As you prepare to support your child's learning at home, please allow me to share my own beliefs about methods, algorithms, and procedures. I know that some folks have very strong feelings about the Common Core. And I won't debate anyone, but it is my personal conviction that math is math. You will not find any competition this year between "old" math and "new" math, between "old" ways and "new" ways. The best way for your child to solve a problem is the most efficient way that he or she can achieve (and understand) a correct answer--and there's almost always more than one path to a correct answer.**

I will reiterate, though, that understanding is key. If you can accurately solve a problem, but you don't understand how or why your solution works... ("It's just magic!") If you can accurately solve a problem, but you can't create a story context related to your computation... Well, maybe you don't understand as well as you'd like to think.I will reiterate, though, that understanding is key. If you can accurately solve a problem, but you don't understand how or why your solution works... ("It's just magic!") If you can accurately solve a problem, but you can't create a story context related to your computation... Well, maybe you don't understand as well as you'd like to think.

**7. What is your grading policy?**

**I tell my students that I would be willing for everyone to have an A in math--but they have to earn it. And they earn it by demonstrating to me that they have achieved mastery of each standard we study. I offer my support in many ways. I break each standard into parts and provide opportunities for students to learn and to practice. I communicate daily with families who wish to reinforce their child's learning at home. I give plenty of notice when an assessment is scheduled--and I make the assessment available to my students and their families in advance. (If a student is smart enough to memorize all the correct answers, they are smart enough not to cheat.) I grade fairly; perfection is not required to demonstrate mastery. The student who misses 1 out of 6 gets an A in my gradebook, even though 5/6 is technically an 83% rather than a 90%.**

SS

**tudents are encouraged to do a "retake in advance"--that is, before they turn in their assessment--if they are ever displeased with their performance.****You might think a student who earns 100% in math is not being challenged. But sometimes that student earns 100% after previously scoring a 50, 60, or 70%. The final grade is a result of their effort. Yet, sadly, I have observed that is the exception to the rule. More often than not, the students who choose to do a retake are the ones who are raising their scores from 80% to 90% or 90% to 100%.**

And I don't want to take anything away from those students. I admire the ones who say, "That is not my best work. I will not be satisfied until I do better." I just need your help, as parents, instilling that motivation, that drive, that work ethic in every student. Good grades are ripe for the picking in my class. Students just have to earn them.And I don't want to take anything away from those students. I admire the ones who say, "That is not my best work. I will not be satisfied until I do better." I just need your help, as parents, instilling that motivation, that drive, that work ethic in every student. Good grades are ripe for the picking in my class. Students just have to earn them.