Us: We need to buy some multiplication wrap-ups
Us: So students will practice their math facts at home...
Princ: How's that piece of plastic going to help them learn math facts?
Us: It's fun! They'll WANT to use them and learn math facts.
Princ: You can motivate them without the shiny, new toy.
Us: (a little deflated, but seeing his point): Okay.
Alright, so this was a very shortened version of the actual conversation, but you get the idea. The funny thing is, before the talk was even over, I was already thinking of ideas to motivate my students. The problem in my room is that about 1/3 of my students just haven't learned their multiplication facts yet, despite all of my efforts: games, skip-counting, daily drills, partner drills, videos, music, computer practice...So it must be a motivation issue. Armed with this knowledge and with information from my current read, The Power of Our Words, I've decided to approach the issue as a team-building opportunity. I'm calling it Multiplication Mountain.
I'll start with an envisioning question such as, "What would it be like in our class if everyone knew their multiplication facts? How would it help you as a mathematician? What would it take to make sure that everyone learned their multiplication facts?" As a class, we'll discuss these items, then I'll make an envisioning statement such as, "By the end of this year, mathematicians, I hope that you will work together so that everyone will know their multiplication facts like the back of their hands." Then we'll discuss how members of a community help one another and work together, sort of like mountain climbing. (We recently watched a video about a man with cerebral palsey who climbed El Capitan).
We'll talk about how climbers depend on one another to reach the top of the mountain. One may be in the lead but teamwork gets everyone to the top. It may be easy in the beginning (0's, 1's, 2's) but the work gets harder the higher we climb.
I even spent a little while Saturday night (I know--I'm a nerd) drawing a poster-sized mountain and printing stick people to represent each student in my class. From now on when we do daily drills, everyone will do the number that he/she is currently working on. Sounds confusing, but really it's not that difficult to keep up with. Once a student passes the quiz with a 90% three times in a row he can move his stick person up to the next level on Multiplication Mountain. The following day, he will practice the next level of facts. During math choices every day students are able to chose "Expanding Facts" as an option. I will encourage the students who need the most help with math facts to choose this activity more often. We'll celebrate one another's successes as each person climbs the mountain, and also encourage students to work together to "pull up" the ones lagging behind. I'm also planning to find a separate "fact practice" time during the day for the 5-6 students who need the extra help. (Not sure where that time's going to come from, but I have a few ideas. I'm hoping that this exercise will make the classroom community even stronger, while motivating ALL students to learn work together and learn their facts.
I'll let you know how it goes. How about you? Have you done something similar? Please share.