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Welcome to my math blog! The purpose of this blog is to help you stay informed about our learning and experiences that have taken place during our math class. I have also included links your child (and you) may want to use in order to supplement math learning in 5th grade.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Note Taking

Bell Ringer

Today's bell ringer was a "Guess My Number!" challenge.  Students could work together as a table group to determine the answer using mathematical clues.  I had a few successful students, but as this was our first attempt, I was just happy that they willfully attempted the challenge!

Lesson Frame

  • We will learn how our math class will look as we work in small groups rotating through working with Mrs. Dittrich, working independently on TTM, and working in a small group on math activities chosen specifically for our group.
  • I will summarize the relationship between the Social Contract, Secret to Success,  and mindsets as we work through rotations.


We only spent a few minutes discussing a rotation schedule. It is very abstract to discuss something that will happen in the future. However, we talked about what it will look like and I showed them a sample of our schedule:

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Next we spent time adding some notes to our math journal using the assignment "Fifth Grade Builder's 1".  
  • First we cut off the bottom section titled "Vocabulary" and taped it to the back of the front cover for easy access.  This will give them a reference for the next time these same words appear.  
  • Next, we created a GEMDAS (order of operations) page.  Order of Operations will show up on every FGB for a while, so it was important to take time to explain it effectively.
  • Finally, we created a Coordinate Graphing page.  We cut out and glued down the color coded example we made yesterday.  Again, this is for reference as they will be asked to label  these types of graphs again.
Next, we moved to today assignment, Fifth Grade Builder #2.  A new set of vocabulary words meant that we spent time defining them correctly.  Tomorrow we will add this to our journal.

The remainder of class time was given to completing FGB2.  Students were more successful with the long division, but I am still catching errors when it comes to subtracting across zeros.


To wrap up, I asked my classes to summarize the relationship between our Social Contract, Secret to Success, and growth mindset as it connects to our using rotation stations.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Khan Academy/Fifth Grade Builder

Bell Ringer:

Today's bell ringer comes from 101 Questions.  I use this site once a week as a warm up activity.  I post a picture on the screen and ask my students to write the first MATH question that comes to mind.  I use Google Classroom for students to submit their questions.  This allows me to showcase everyone's questions, but also help my students to correct their work and get ideas from other students.

Since this was our first attempt, many of my students questions were pretty basic, however, I had a few that exceeded my expectations.  My favorite actually wrote me a word problem:

A man ordered fries, lemons, and pickles at a restaurant.  The fries were $3.50, the pickles were a dollar, and the lemons were 50 cents.  How much money did he make in all?

Good Things

As usual, I spent about 5 minutes allowing students to share the "good things" that are happening to them.  I do this with every class to ensure that I get to learn about my students.  One of the best parts of my day!

Lesson Frame
  • We will learn about our use of Khan Academy this year including earning rewards as we work and how to use Khan Academy as a resource when working through TTM.
  • I will explain how purposefully using Khan Academy can help me while I work on Think Through Math.

We began the lesson by ensuring that the students all had a working bookmark to Khan. Then I had them join my Khan classroom. Khan has made changes over the summer, so we had to work through some of the setup together. Once that was taken care of, we discussed the ways that we could use Khan to enhance our learning with Think Through Math and walked through the rewards available as students earn Khan skills:

Before allowing students some time to explore and work with Khan, it was time to begin working on our first math assignment.  I had heard about a book series called "Algebra Readiness Builders," that was able to close some of the gaps that hinder students ability to understand algebra.  I decided to use the first "builder" today.  I actually broke the page in 1/2.  The top half was complete review, but the bottom half was introducing some new concepts.   I chose to work the problems on the bottom half with my students so that I could model for them.

I do not like to assign math for homework, so I set apart at least 20 minutes a day to work on that day's assignment.  I also like to give my students immediate feedback, as well as being able to see immediately what concepts are causing problems.  To do this, I require students to solve a single problem at a time and bring their paper to me to check.  If it is correct, they get a check mark.  If it is incorrect, I circle the problem number and either give guidance as to where the error occurred or ask the students to look more closely at their work.  This process also ensures that students either completely finish their work in class, or have only a few problems to complete at home.

I must say, while these problems were intended to be review, I certainly found some areas that I need to work on with my kids!

Once students had finished the assignment, they were able to get onto Khan for a few minutes.


To close the lesson, I had students talk with their table group.  They needed to explain how purposefully using Khan Academy can help them while working on Think Through Math.

After a few minutes of discussion, one student from each group needed to report their decision to the class. All of the groups concurred. If someone is stuck on a topic in TTM, they can open a new tab to Khan, search the topic, watch the video, and solve the problems to help gain an understanding!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Think Through Math Benchmark

Lesson Frame:
  • We will use our enormous brains to totally dominate the Think Through Math Placement Test!
  • I will work hard and score "basic" or higher on my placement test.

My entire math class time was given to taking the TTM Placement test.  I was hoping it would not take the entire period, but I did not want to make anyone feel rushed as I wanted the most accurate data as possible.

I will be using the data from TTM and from students' results from their previous STAAR assessment to create my first set of rotation groups.  These groups are flexible as growth is shown at each benchmark.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Capturing Kids Hearts/Think Through Math Intro

I spent a good portion of my morning working on the Social Contract with my homeroom.  We used a slightly difference process this year, but the outstanding results were the same!

The majority of my class time was given to learning about Think Through Math.

Lesson Frame:
  • We will learn about our use of Think Through Math this year including earning rewards as we work through the program and setting goals to ensure our success.
  • I will support the idea that having a growth mindset will help us succeed when working on Think Through Math.

We began our lesson by revisiting our discussion of Fixed vs. Growth mindsets and discussing our courage zone.  At this point I began discussing how we will use Think Through Math this year. Before everyone's mind shifted back to a fixed mindset, I wanted to explore all of the rewards students can earn and they progress through the program.

On the Think Through Math site, as you work through a lesson you earn points for every correct answer.  On TTM there are multiple ways to spend your points:

    • Avatar customization - individual
    • Classroom goals - team
    • Charities - individual
Not only can students earn points and spend them online, there are a plethora of rewards students can earn in the classroom.

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Next, we moved into writing our first SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time Based) goal using Think Through Math.  My example for them was:

Mrs. Dittrich’s SMART goal:

I want to have 90% of my students to pass their first 5 TTM lessons by September 29 (the end of the 1st 6 weeks) so I will monitor their progress and work with them in order to meet my goal.

Students wrote their goals and we posted them.

  • Support the idea that having a growth mindset will help me succeed when working on Think Through Math.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Structure Struggle: Mindset Lesson

Lesson Frame:
  • We will work collaboratively as a group to recreate the structure shown at our table using only a sheet of paper and a pair of scissors.
  • I will work with a group to formulate a growth mindset statement using a fixed mindset statement.


I love to give students true challenges and this was one!  I originally found the activity on the Teaching in Room 6 blog.   She used this activity to teach a growth mindset.  You can find the activity on the  Class Creator Blog.  It was titled "Teaching Kids to Struggle."

Basically, I followed the instructions from "Teaching Kids to Struggle" for creating a structure made from a single sheet of paper.  The challenge was for the kids to recreate the structure using the same size paper I did and a pair of scissors.  Before allowing students to begin, I asked them to work with their table group to come up with a plan.  I also asked them to review our Secret to Success poster to ensure success as a team.

I gave the classes 10 minutes.  As they worked, I roamed the room writing down things I was hearing as they worked.  Typically, the overwhelming thought at the beginning was that this was going to be easy.  That changed fairly quickly!  Students who just started cutting their paper without a real plan became frustrated that they couldn't try again and instead of working with someone at the table who still had their paper, they would just sit and shred the paper with scissors.  Others would just throw down the scissors and cross their arms.  I began hearing things like:

  • This is impossible!
  • How did she do this?
  • This is bologna!
  • She must be a rocket scientist.
  • I don't get it!
After the timer went off, I started debriefing my students by asking questions about how they felt during the challenge.  I mainly focused on the changing emotions from the first minute of the challenge to the last minute.  They all agreed they went from "this is easy" to a very frustrated "this in impossible!"  I then read through the statements they had made during the challenge and explained that these were all statements of a "fixed mindset."

Before explaining this in much detail.  I asked the kids to answer a few questions pertaining to "What Does it Mean to be Smart?"  This activity came from a growth mindset pack found on Teachers Pay Teachers.  Basically, the kids were asked to answer "true" or "false" to 15 different statements.  This year, I chose to turn this into a Google Form and have the kids answer online.   Before going over the activity, I had them watch a growth mindset video put out by Khan Academy emphasizing that anyone can learn and to write down the idea they thought was most important from the video.

Once we had shared our thoughts about the video, we revisited the "quiz".  I did not go over them as though there was a right or wrong answer.  Instead, I had them write an "f" for fixed or "g" for growth.  Using the Google Form also allowed them to see the answers presented in a circle graph to help them visually see how the responses went.  I wanted them to begin seeing the difference between the two mindsets and understand that they have the power to choose which mindset they will follow.

Next, I found a graphic that compares the two mindsets as described by Carol Dweck.  We walked through the two mindsets, contrasting them to show students the importance of a mindset.  


To encourage them to choose having a growth mindset, I used an activity from Runde's Room called "Stick-It Together:  A Collaborative Growth Mindset Activity."  In this activity, students work with their group to change a fixed mindset idea into a growth mindset option.  Once students had completed the activity, each group shared out their growth mindset answers.  

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Cups Challenge: Student-led Classroom

Lesson Frame:
  • We will work collaboratively as a table group to restack a set of cups using only a rubber band and some string.
  • I will describe how I will work in a group to ensure both my success and the success of my group.

Yesterday, my classes worked through the Breakout EDU challenge.  I began with this lesson in order for my students to begin thinking about working collaboratively.  To begin class today, I asked my classes to write down three things they wanted people to do when working in a collaborative group.  After writing these down individually, I had my students compare their ideas with the people at their table group.  They found that they all had very similar ideas of what they expected others to do when working in a group.

To finalize their ideas of what a good group does in order to ensure success, I had them complete a cup stacking challenge I found on the blog "Runde's Room".  Basically, students had to moved cups from a stacked pyramid into a single stack using only a rubber band and pieces of string.

It was fun to watch each table group approach the challenge differently.  While many groups were successful, each group had different issues that arose as they worked through the challenge.  As we came back as a class, I asked the table groups to choose a "reporter" to share with the class a challenge they faced as a team and how they solved it.

At this point, I asked each group to create a list of 4 key points a team needed to follow in order to work successfully as a team.  Next, they were asked to agree on the two points they thought were most important for teams to follow in order to ensure success. 

As each team reported out their ideas, I recorded them on a Google Doc titled "Secret To Success."  We also discussed each idea in order to ensure that everyone agreed with the idea and what it might look like in action.  I explained that we would be referring to these charts as we worked in teams throughout the school year.


Apply what we have learned today to yourself. 
Describe how YOU will work in a group setting to ensure both your success and the success of your group.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Math About Me

Lesson Frame

  • We will calculate the day of the week we were born AND how old we are in seconds.
  • I will explain how the two math activities may have changed my mind about math.

I will admit that I actually scared my 5th graders to death when I showed them Zeller's Congruence algorithm that allows you to calculate the day of the week you were born:

I did explain that while we would be using this algorithm, I would be breaking it down into smaller pieces for us to work with.  I just wanted them to be aware that there was an algebraic algorithm and to expose them to what it looked like.  It allowed me to use and explain terms such as variable, GEMDAS, and algebraic equation.

A nice explanation of how to calculate this is found at https://plus.maths.org/content/what-day-week-were-you-born .  This is something you will want to work through before presenting it to your students, but once you understand it, it is easy to explain.

Once we completed the math, we actually went online and tested our answer using Math is Fun.  The kids loved this.

Now they were hooked and eager to discover more math about themselves.  The next activity I chose to use allowed them to find the (approximate) number of seconds they have been alive.  It was approximate as we did not calculate from the moment of birth.  For upper grades you can have a more precise calculation, but for my purposes, we used general information and a calculator.
  1. We wrote down how old we were.
  2. We multiplied our age x 12 and added the number of months from our last birthday to today, to give us the number of months.
  3. Next we moved to weeks, using the above answer, we multiplied by 4, as there are about 4 weeks per month.
  4. Now it was time for days, since there are 7 days in a week, we multiplied the answer above by 7.
  5. Hours:  multiply above answer by 24
  6. Minutes:  multiply above answer by 60
  7. Seconds:  multiply above answer by 60
I know that there are additional ways to do this and probably more accurate, but I just wanted my students to have fun with math the first day of school.  What they really enjoyed was comparing their answers to a website that gives a much more accurate answer, Math Cats.  My students loved comparing their answers, and while their estimates were much lower, they were within a reasonable range!

There were a couple of things I really liked about this site.
  1. The seconds are changing constantly and every minute the minutes change, etc.
  2. If you new the exact time you were born, you could add that information into the program and see EXACTLY how many seconds old you were!


To close the lesson, I asked my students to explain how the two activities we completed may have changed their mind about math.

Two of my favorite responses:

I have to admit this changed my mind about math class.  We had a spectacular time and didn't realize we were learning.  Mrs. Dittrich, I have to say, you changed my mind about the class.

It changed my mind about math because it was so much fun, but we were still learning.  I will look forward to coming to math class even more.