October 6, 2017

How much time does your school allocate towards math? 50 minutes, 60 minutes? More? Less? This difference may not seem that significant but those ten minutes in a day become 50 minutes in a week and if they attend school 180 days it becomes 30 hours less math time than those teachers that provide math instruction and skill building for 60 minutes.

These times fluctuate depending on your school district but on average according to the Department of Education Stats in Brief, students spend an hour in math and two hours in reading every day. To put this into a year perspective, a student receives 37 ½ more days in reading instruction than they do in mathematics. Add that to the thirteen years from Kindergarten through graduation that students spend in school, and 487 ½ more days will be spent in reading than math. An entire year more of reading instruction.

You may wonder what I am trying to get at, because reading IS important. And I’m not saying that it isn’t, but studies show math is the single strongest indicator of future academic success and that students who spend more time in math instruction do better in reading. Research by UC Irvine looking at 20,000 Kindergarten students shows that math skills turn out to be a key predictor for future academic success. “Math and reading skills at the point of school entry are consistently associated with higher levels of academic performance in later grades. Particularly impressive is the predictive power of early math skills, which supports the wisdom of experimental evaluations of promising early math intervention.”

In the last decade, educators have focused on boosting literacy skills among low-income kids in the hope that all children will read well by 3rd grade. But the math skills of these students haven’t received the same attention. Researchers say many high poverty kindergarten classrooms don’t teach enough math and the few lessons in math are often too basic.

During the last school year, only 40 percent of fourth-graders nationwide scored at a proficient level in national math assessments. In breaking that down further, only 26 percent of Hispanic-Americans and 19 percent of African-Americans tested proficient in math. This is significant because strong math skills are needed for some of the fastest growing industries in our country. “Understanding and being able to work with numbers is a fundamental skill for success in almost any occupation you might choose,” said economist Greg J. Duncan of the University of California Irvine’s School of Education, whose research examines child poverty and education. “It leads to the analytic, higher-level thinking that’s increasingly important.”

What can be done to increase time in math and to also improve the quality of math instruction? CREATE QUALITY MATH MOMENTS.

MANGO MATH has created a math calendar that provides daily math problems for students to spend 5 minutes on as they walk in the door and get settled in their day. Allow the students to communicate and collaborate when they are solving these problems as this deepens student’s math understanding. Students use of the calendar moves them from their daily work that involves mastering basic computational skills and number concepts to more complex ideas and mathematical reasoning, including problem solving.

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There is a great series of math picture books for grades PreK – 4th grade by Stuart J Murphy. These stories start with simple number sense ideas like patterns, opposites, comparing, sequencing and counting. The books extend from there to equivalent values, fractions, percentages, and negative numbers. Each book has a story line that emphasizes and explains the concept. Here are some other “math” books that explain math concepts to students in a way to direct curiously about numbers.

You don’t need to stop at 4th grade; there are some great math based books for middle schools students as well. My favorite has been the Number Devil that explores Fibonacci numbers. These books help to explore math in a more in-depth way.

This pertains in particular to poetry and music lyrics. Poetry and music are about rhythm and tempo, both of which involve math. Create a poem or song that follows a famous math pattern like Pi – 3.14159265… the Fibonacci sequence – 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, … each number in the pattern is the number of words/letters in the poem.

The downloadable math lesson below involves symbols used by the Japanese to represent poetry as far back as A.D. 1000.

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MANGO Math creates lots of moments in classrooms. Where there is a moment of time, be it before a recess, before the students go home, or after lunch when students need to get back to thinking about school, MANGO Math Kits provide quick-to-implement games. Check out our website for more information.

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