Ashley Dixon, Math Teacher, Bens Branch Elementary, New Caney ISD
This year has been a year of growth and change. After relocating to a school in my community, I realized that my teaching style would need to change because my students were different than any group I had taught before. It was also a year of change for the schools in my district because we were starting out with loads of technology. We are now a one-to-one district with every student in third through twelfth grade having their own Google Chromebook. While we were all very blessed to have so much to offer our students, we were nervous on how to effectively use the technology with our third graders. Within a week, the students adapted very quickly and were using the Chromebooks daily.
The challenge to teachers was to find online resources that were engaging for the students and implemented practice that corresponded to skills we had previously taught. This practice needed to be challenging enough so the students spent time thinking and solving problems and not mindlessly clicking through a game. I was introduced to Think Through Math at the beginning of the year and quickly got my students started. I loved that I could monitor the progress of each student and assign specific topics when needed. I was nervous at first to have my students spend so much independent practice time on a computer and realized I needed to give my students ownership of their learning. I had to motivate them to want to practice correctly. These are a few things that helped to motivate my students this year.
My students love competition. They love seeing their name and their classmates’ names on the leader board. Many students would go home at night and work on Think Through Math just so they could come back the next day to see if they had more points then someone else. They were encouraging to each other and allowed each others success to motivate them to do more. One of my students was on the leader board for the school and realized they were ahead of students in 4th and 5th grade. That soon became the unspoken goal. Not only do my students like to compete with each other, they like to compete with themselves. They try to get as many points as possible during a lesson. They keep track of how many points they got on a previous lesson and try to earn more on the next lesson.
My students are givers, have huge hearts and wanted to do something for others. I think so often kids want to do something but feel like they have boundaries. They must have an adult at home that is able to help them to give back to their community or others around them. Using Think Through Math, the students have goals to reach a certain amount of points so they can donate them. We discussed and researched some of the charities that were featured in Think Through Math. One of my students was awarded a certificate from TTM for his donation to the Boys and Girls Club of America. He was presented with this awards at our daily school wide assembly. And our Principal was able to promote the Boys and Girls Club of America and tell how they are able to help. My hope is not only that they will continue to give their points to these charities, but that they are inspired to find something they are passionate about as adults and continue to make a positive impact with their time, talents, and treasures.
Some students struggled at first because they thought that this was going to be just another click through computer game. Once they realized that they needed to work out the math with computations or pictures instead of doing the work in their head, they had much more success. I allowed the students to use individual white boards and expo markers every time they logged on. I cut small squares from old fabric to make individual erasers. They kept the expo marker and eraser in their pencil box for easy transitions. The students liked having something other than paper and pencil to work with. I think variety can be a motivator….even if it is just a marker. We all know it is the little things!
Many of my students have already worked through all of the third grade pathways correctly and are being challenged with some 4th grade skills. This would not happen if they were not motivated to learn more. They own their success because it is what they wanted to do, not what I wanted for them.
Proud Math Teacher – Ashley Dixon