Foundations of Math (FoM): Implementation Story
When school buildings closed in March, it took everyone by surprise and required teachers to quickly adjust their practices. This is one account of how a teacher who is actively engaged in implementing Foundations of Math (FoM) pedagogy moved to remote teaching and learning.
Birchview Elementary School
3rd Grade Teacher
In my classroom, I work hard to make sure math is a hands-on, student-centered, discovery-oriented subject. I want my students to work with manipulatives, find the connections through play, and make the step from concrete to abstract. However, when distance learning took over, I was worried about my ability to engage my students when I was not there to provide manipulatives or small groups and be a guide to their learning.
I divided the skills I had intended to teach into the remaining weeks of the school year. I took one week for each topic/skill set. For example, one week's focus was "Understanding Data." We took the week to talk about surveying, types of graphs, and how to read and construct graphs and pull data.
Overall, it was a challenging endeavor to cut through all standards and come out with five or six major topics. Worries set aside, I knew I had to try to make it as engaging as possible. I took a few steps to maximize engagement at home.
- I created videos of myself teaching mini-lessons and skills so that I was able to connect new material to background knowledge, as well as model for my students.
- I provided games and activities for students to engage with the content. For example, in our graphing unit, I modeled surveying and constructing a graph and then had my students do their own research and graph creations.
- I sent passwords and access to math games and sites that students enjoy such as Prodigy, ABCya!, and various math games I found to coincide with different skills.
Student access was one of the most challenging aspects to distance learning. My district has a broad spectrum of students. Zoom would only reach about 45 percent of my kids. Thus, I made it a goal to provide as many entry points as possible.
- I used Class Dojo as my MAIN information hub. I had 100 percent of my parents connected prior to the shutdown, so I knew this was my best bet to get information to all parents.
- I copied all information and kept it up to date on Google Classroom. This allowed students to access the learning (my students are familiar with Google Classroom) if parents were unable to assist. Google Classroom also opened up access as students could use their Xbox to log in.
- I made videos of me teaching mini-lessons. I made sure these videos could be opened on multiple devices. Phones were my priority. Almost all of my families have at least one smartphone. I would post the video link to Class Dojo and to Google Classroom. I even emailed the link to a few parents.
- I made weekly and bi-weekly learning packets for families who expressed interest in paper copies of learning materials.
- I made sure to keep communication open through weekly phone calls, emails, and dojo messages. I wanted to make sure families knew I was there to adapt the learning to the environment available. Distance learning was hard for EVERYONE. I strived to be their unwavering support.
I would say I received a mix of parent and student feedback. The main negative feedback I received was the overwhelming stress of technology. While we incorporate technology in the classroom and strive to help students feel comfortable with it, nobody was prepared for students to be thrown into online learning where most parents had no clue how to work with a laptop or Google sites. The best way I found to combat the disconnect was to offer screencast videos of how to access different programs. Trust me, the technology gap was exhausting on both ends, parents AND teachers.
On the other hand, I definitely received plenty of positive feedback from parents and students. One of the main positives was the love for our weekly Zoom meetings. I made sure to schedule a video conference with my students that was centered around social engagement. I did not want to force a lesson on my students via zoom and have them stop showing up. The Zoom platform served as one of my opportunities to engage students socially and emotionally. Therefore, our video chats often consisted of catching up with one another, playing a game, and then some time for my students to chat with each other. In surveys I put out to my class, the weekly Zoom catch-ups were by far the favorite activity.