Sep 192011
Recently I have had the pleasure of connecting with teachers who are new to teaching math and were looking for suggestions for setting up their classroom to support Mathematics.  On their own they had explored the internet, the teacher stores, other colleagues classrooms looking for ideas about how to create an environment that fosters student mathematical thinking, working, collaborating and independence.  Their questions have led me to reflect on my own classroom set up in the past and how I would set it up today.  Here is what I would need in my classroom to support mathematics:
  • Math Area/Corner-  Just like how every classroom needs to have a class library to foster student literacy I believe that every classroom needs to have a math area to foster mathematical literacy.  This area, be it a shelf, bookcase, an area on the floor, can house the “tools” students will need to access during Mathematician’s Workshop.  These tools would include manipulatives (both purchased and natural items), containers to store them in and graphic organizers that students might need (10-frames, 100 Chart, Base Ten Chart, blank Venn Diagrams…).  I also like having several small baskets in this area which I call math tool boxes.  These baskets can house all materials which students will need for the day and save time in the distribution of manipulatives in the classroom.  As an added bonus I find the use of “Tool Boxes”   helps foster student independence during cleanup and makes it easier for them to keep their manipulatives contained while they are working.
    A Math Tool Box- very handy for distributing manipulatives


  • Math Books-  These would be a basket or several baskets of literature, both fiction and nonfiction, which has a mathematical slant or theme.  The goal with allowing students to access mathematical literature is to allow them to extend and expand their mathematical thinking, foster connections and allow them to see mathematics in a variety of situations.  For some ideas about possible math books to include check out my post on My Favorite Math Books
  • Math Wall- This wall would contain mathematical words, definitions, sentence frames, representations anything to foster understanding of mathematical vocabulary and student independence.  I would also include on the wall co-constructed anchor charts about math concepts students are currently working on, photos of math in the world, student work and norms for mathematician’s workshop.  For more information on Math Walls check out my post Why Math Walls?
If we truly value math in our classrooms then math has to have a place in our rooms as well.  In so doing students will see its importance, be able to access supports, and explore the mathematical concepts.  By having a place for math language, math tools and math literature and by supporting students use of them we can start to create a math rich classroom.
Sep 062011

I recently came across this video on David Wee’s Blog.

This video really stuck with me and inspired me to think about how we can create Mathland in our classrooms and schools. We live in a mathematically rich world but I often find that unless students use a mathematical lens in which to look at it the math remains unseen. I think it would be like living in France but only interacting with people who speak English. You never would get the whole experience.

So how can we help students to see Mathland?

 Building on the comparison of learning math and learning French I started asking myself how teachers teach French so that students can become functional, fluent adults… without shipping everyone to a French-speaking province or country. In our division the way we do this is through immersion education. French Immersion requires that teachers “consistently reflect in his or her classroom and practice a fundamental understanding of French Immersion Education regardless of the grade level or subject matter being taught.”(Saskatchewan Ministry of Education).  French is taught in all subject areas, connections are fostered, classroom spaces reflect an immersion of language, students interact with the language in and out of the classroom, cooperative language rich opportunities are provided, students quite simply are immersed in French. This environment may not be the same as going to Quebec or France but it is the next best thing.

The question now becomes can we create a Math Immersion environment? Can students begin to see the math in all subject areas, and foster connections? Can our classroom spaces reflect an immersion in math? Can students interact with math in and out of the classroom? Can we provide opportunities for rich cooperative mathematical experiences? Can we immersed our students in Math? This environment could provide our students with the lens they need to see that they ARE living in Mathland!

“If we all learned mathematics in math land, we would all learn mathematics perfectly well.” ~ Seymour Papert.