The start of the year has seen significant changes at school. A new math curriculum, in addition to a new team has resulted in even more time spent meeting to plan and organize our new math course. Consequently, time has been a precious commodity; fortunately in the spirit of collaboration I have benefited from brainstorming sessions with math and COETAIL colleague Martin Hermann.
Our new math curriculum is more student centered and problem-solving based. It requires students to not just memorize an algorithm, but to genuinely understand the math concepts involved, and to be ultimately able to explain, and reflect upon, their thinking.
With this in mind, it is important that the problems we choose to illustrate concepts are ones that the students take note of and remember, as we will use these problems as "anchors" to refer back to later on, when we are connecting concepts.
Martin Hermann's recent blog, Ferris Wheels & Multiples: Monday's Math Lesson Intro provided students with an important visual "hook" as an introduction to dealing with common multiples. As we both team-teach a group of ESL learners, his video clip of Ferris Wheels allows his students to come to an immediate awareness of the situation described in the textbook problem.
The very next problem posed in the math text concerns the life cycles of cicadas. To allow ESL students to comprehend the type of organism we are dealing with, and why it might be important to be able to predict when the cicadas hatch, I initially thought that a aural connection may prove powerful. However, after talking with Martin Hermann and seeing the way he used bliptv, I decided to utilize the power of the visual imagery which also has the associated aural component.
This has the effect of making the problem instantly relevant to the students, as they will see (and hear) exactly what a cicada is. The visual imagery, in tandem with the distinctive noise of the creatures, will allow the students to identify the organism itself. This recognition will allow the teacher to inform students that these cicadas can (and do) make problems for farmers.
Leading on from this, the fact that different species of cicadas have different life cycles (13 years and 17 years) can be explained. Why it would be beneficial for us to be able to determine when their life cycles coincide is a great question to launch the idea of common multiples. This further reinforces the previous section (Martin's Ferris Wheels), which was also concerned with cycles (of rotating objects).
Visual imagery can be used here as a powerful tool to create recognition, understanding, and interest in students, as well as providing a great anchor on which to attach new concepts.