Inside Our Classrooms: Math - Fall 2013






In a math lesson on bar graphs and picture graphs, students worked together to sort different pumpkins according to different attributes. Once the pumpkins were sorted, the students then used the data to create a class picture graph. During a lesson on equal parts, the students used their higher-order thinking skills to separate different objects into equal groups.

First Grade

In math class, students were also presented with opportunities to think about the world around them by solving real-world word problems. Coin-counting and measuring also connected the material studied at school with experiences and activities children complete at home. 

Second Grade

After a long summer away from school, second graders started the year reviewing important math concepts such as place value, number sense, and adding and subtracting 2-, 3-, and 4-digit numbers! On Sept. 24, the Second Grade visited Homestead Farm in Poolesville, MD, to learn about and pick apples. Throughout the day, the second-grade students pet, fed, and learned about different farm animals, enjoyed a scenic hay ride, heard an educational talk about apples and apple orchards, and then had the opportunity to pick their own apples.

In the weeks following the trip, the students engaged in a variety of apple-related math activities and science experiments. The apple lab included cutting and observing the parts of an apple, measuring the weight and circumference of the apples using different measuring tools, and exploring what happens to a peeled versus an unpeeled apple over time. Second-grade students are looking forward to learning multiplication and division in the second quarter! 

Third Grade

Attention, all third-grade shoppers! After receiving a lot of review of concepts and facts learned last year, the third graders hit the market! They set up their own market, called Mac’s Market, and the students practiced being good customers, precise cashiers, and professional managers. It was great to see them having so much fun getting into their characters while practicing giving change to the exact penny. Excellent job, third graders! Parents: Continue to let your children practice paying for items and receiving change for those items the next time you have a quick stop at your very own market of choice!

Fourth Grade

The fourth graders started the year out on a great note by doing such a fine job completing their summer workbooks. Bravo, fourth graders! The beginning of the school year and the beginning of the textbook find the fourth graders diving into review concepts. They had a lot of practice with the place value of decimals and the “proper” way to say them. They were then put to the test to show off what they know. They had a ton of fun proving their knowledge with dry-erase board activities as well as a friendly game of Decimal JEOPARDY! The next unit will build on their knowledge as the students begin to divide using decimal quotients instead of remainders, so that they may reach a more accurate answer. 

Fifth Grade

The year is off to a running start already in fifth grade! Students spent the first part of the year reviewing and perfecting their skills from fourth grade, tackling word problems, revisiting place value and conquering operations that involved decimals. As they finished up their first look at exponents, they also enjoyed a field trip to The Corn Maze and Pumpkin Farm! They put their problem-solving skills into action as they worked together in teams to solve brain teasers and puzzles, navigating through the corn maze and learning about just how much math is used on a farm. (That’s right — a farm!)

As the first quarter quickly comes to an end, students look forward to their major unit of study this winter when they apply percentages and number tricks for the holiday shopping season. They will focus on the real-life application of consumer math as students are placed on a holiday budget. Within this budget, they must use their problem-solving skills to decide how to use coupons and discounts to buy for their family and friends. But let’s not forget that pesky sales tax! Students will get to experience the decision-making stresses of the holidays and gain an appreciation for all the planning and coordinating the season brings. 

Sixth Grade

The sixth graders have started the year focused and dedicated as they tackle the more abstract world of math in pre-algebra. They have already excelled in so many new concepts, including the rules of integer operations, problem-solving processes, and the ever-important order of operations. As the sixth graders absorb the foundations of algebra, they are exposed to the properties, which teach students why they are able to follow certain processes — not just how. 

Currently, the students are exploring rational numbers. Do you know what makes a number irrational? Your student does! They are looking forward to taking on expressions, equations, and inequalities as the holidays approach and will begin a thorough unit on ratios and proportions, including percentages, discounts, and consumer mathematics in the spring. At that time, they will see math in action when they have our much-anticipated field trip to Marriott Headquarters, where students will observe math used in design, budgeting, marketing, and more. 

Seventh Grade

In any algebra class, the answer to “What are students learning?” is probably the same. A more varied response would arise to the question, “How are students learning?” Seventh graders at Westminster School get a healthy dose of direct teacher instruction/modeling, note-taking, and guided practice. Less widespread may be the fact that mistakes are actually celebrated as a means to learning. Every question of every homework assignment is corrected every day, and students are encouraged not only to recognize their mistakes, but also to analyze and verbalize them. Additionally, students are taught to be more than passive recipients of math problems, but rather active creators. To review for a test, they composed original mock tests (with answer keys, too) that their fellow classmates actually took. When a test-taker found a mistake on the answer key or needed clarification, he/she approached the test-maker to resolve the issue. What was the message to students? Your work has an audience and needs to be done with care. 

Another motto in the class is “It’s not wrong, but it takes long,” which addresses the question, “Could I have solved it by doing this?” Efficient and strategic means to solutions are preferred over roundabout ways that bring a higher chance of committing errors. Lastly, students are gradually discovering the joys of their graphing calculators as they transition from a focus on arithmetic skills to algebraic thinking.

Eighth Grade

Do you suffer from APS? Many eighth-grade students would admit to showing symptoms of this undesirable condition. APS stands for “Auto-Pilot Syndrome,” a fictitious name given to the real phenomenon of students mimicking the procedure for solving one problem to the next without noticing that the problems are slightly different and therefore require different procedures. The best remedy for APS is simply to read questions carefully in the beginning and step back at the end to ask, “Does that answer make sense?” As true as it is familiar, excellence is in the details; algebra students may perform over twenty separate operations for just one problem and must be vigilant every step of the way. Similarly, geometric notation wastes nary one stroke of the pencil, and the subtlest of changes can express dramatically different things. 

Geometry students are like detectives who enjoy dominos: One motto is, “Start with what you know to find out what you don’t know, even if you aren’t directly addressing the question. Doing so often has a domino effect that eventually leads to the answer.” Can all this meticulousness possibly be enjoyable? Achieving true mastery over complex concepts is fun. Ask an eighth grader if “FOIL,” factoring expressions in the form “x2+bx+c,” or finding missing angle measures is fun, and you may be surprised by the answer!