I use a variety of hands-on, minds-on teaching strategies such as those found in the Ministry of Education's Guides to Effective Instruction in Mathematics. I find these activities to be much more engaging for the students I teach. I also use the dynamic geometry software Geometer's Sketchpad (GSP) for teaching the majority of the geometry concepts I cover in grade six.
That being said, I do think that students need to record their learning, so I created the Math Survival Guide. Students use these throughout the year as we cover each of the strands. I started my first math class by having the students make their own "survival guide". I gave each student half of a file folder...I try to be environmentally conscious and reuse ones the main office doesn't want any longer. I cut the file folders in half using a paper cutter.
|Start with an old file folder.|
|Cut the file folder in half. Now you have TWO covers.|
|Open one half like this with the "fold" in the middle.|
|Each student glues a large piece of quad paper face up to one half of the open file folder. You may need to trim off the holes and a few rows from each side of the quad paper to make it fit.|
|Students fold the paper into eighths.|
|Make sure all the creases in your fold are nice and "crisp". Students can use a straight edge such as a ruler to get nice, clean folds.|
|Students continue to fold until they have the right fit.|
|Add a cover. (My students do a much better job than I do!)|
|Students use four squares of the quad paper for each entry. They must include the word/concept, a written definition and a picture, diagram or symbol.|
This activity is great for me at the beginning of any new unit/task/activity because I get to walk around and see what the students know and don't know. It is not as intimidating as always giving a "diagnostic" pre-test. Students seem more willing to show what they know, and I am not sure they even realize that I am collecting diagnostic data at this point.
As the unit/task/activity continues, students go back to their survival guides and revise/edit their initial entries or they confirm their thinking. At the end of the unit/task/activity the students can use the information to help them study for any quiz or test I might administer.
By the end of grade 6 they have a complete math dictionary divided into the five strands of the Ontario Curriculum. We also add a section on problem solving strategies as we work through our Problems of the Week each week. The teachers in grades 7 and 8 often tell me that my students keep their survival guides and bring them to junior high school with them.
This is only part of how I run the math program for my gifted students, but it is a great way to start the year, and to start any new unit/task/activity!