Technology to New Heights – Creating MathCasts in Grade 6

I previously blogged about how I have slowly progressed through the adopting and adapting stages that Marc Prensky spoke about in his Shaping Tech for the Classroom article. The final stage (stage 4) in the movement towards “adopting and adapting” is doing new things in new ways. This is the stage that I am attempting to tackle now. I continue to try to find new ways of teaching the grade 6 math concepts so that it reaches the digital natives who are sitting in my classroom. The excerpt below will walk you through the process I went through to get to a Stage 4 activity:

As a math educator, I feel strongly about embedding a challenging problem solving component into my curriculum. This is one area that students need to develop further and deeper, making them better critical thinkers. When I started at TAS (Taipei American School) in 2004, my teaching partner introduced me to the problems he wanted to use for this part of our sixth grade math curriculum; it was completely separate of our textbook. As I looked through the problems, I felt they were extremely challenging and exactly what we needed for our students ~ I loved it. Every year I have taught this part of our curriculum, my approach has been to:     1) provide example problems solved by me, 2) allow the students some time to solve some practice problems on their own or in small groups, and then 3) we discuss certain methods that might be best to use. The students are then left to work on the assignment outside of class individually. I am constantly asked by parents how they can help their child at home, and I don’t really have an answer for them. Additionally, there are some students who struggle all year long with these assignments.

This past year, I felt I needed to do something different in order to help these struggling students find more success … and to give the parents a way to help their child at home. I decided I would make my own “Problem Solving MathCasts”. The math casts that I have created record my voice explaining important rules, step-by-step instructions for how to solve a sample problem, as well as a video showing how I solve a specific problem. (I have included links below for you to access a few of my Problem Solving MathCasts). Because I posted them on the OLC (Online Classroom), the families were able to download all of the videos from home. Students who needed to watch the videos more than once could do so in the privacy of their home. Parents could also watch the videos and then provide assistance to their child. I have received a lot of great feedback from both students and parents in regards to these videos. And in comparison to previous years, I have now noticed that the majority of my students finish their grade 6 math class with a better approach and more self-confidence in solving the challenging problems given to them.

Based on the very positive feedback I received about my math casts, I decided I needed to take these math casts a step further; I needed to get the students making math casts. When creating new lessons or developing new activities, I am constantly utilizing Bloom’s Taxonomy to reach all learners and learning styles, as well as to create a variety of approaches to learning. My ultimate goal is to generate activities that aim for the higher levels of cognitive understanding – that is, getting my students to analyze, evaluate and create. Ironically, it has taken the current technology class that I am enrolled in to learn that “Bloom’s Taxonomy has bloomed digitally”.  In this article, the original Bloom’s Taxonomy Map has been revised by Andrew Churches where he illustrates how it is linked to digital skill (see image to the left). Well, in taking the math casts a step further, I decided that I would have my students create their own math casts. 

In attempting to hit the highest level of Bloom’s Taxonomy for my digital learners, having my students create their own MathCasts would be the perfect task. I introduced this assignment to them at the end of the year and, of course, I heard a few groans, but for the most part, the students seemed excited. We brainstormed all of the topics we had studied and learned about over the course of the year on a google doc, and then I shared the document with everyone. The students needed to choose one specific skill/concept to “teach” through a MathCast. The only directions I gave them were:

  • Their presentation needed to be Grade 6 appropriate (proper language, vocabulary, problem choice)
  • They needed to use a software program that included video and audio functions
  • Each student needed to cite sources (i.e. graphics)
  • Only legal music could be used

I gave them a few options for different programs they might use, but they had to figure out how to use them by exploring and helping each other. I gave the students class time to work on these, although several of them spent hours perfecting them at home. They were inspired!

I have to be honest with you – I was a bit nervous about this assignment because I didn’t know what to expect. There were very loose guidelines and little direction. In the end, all of the students submitted their projects on time … and that then meant it was time to grade them. I opened the first file and began to listen to and watch my 12-year old student explain how to balance an algebraic equation. Wow ~ It was amazing! And to think about the transfer of knowledge it takes to go from understanding a topic to teaching a topic. Another Wow! The students’ MathCasts were so fantastic that I decided to upload them to YouTube for other math teachers to use in their classrooms. When I mentioned this to the students, they wore the biggest smiles and sat tall in their seats – they were so proud of themselves! These same videos are also being used as resources for my students this year. I can’t wait to do this assignment again this year with my current students.

YouTube Links to Ms. Nave’s Problem Solving MathCasts:

Draw a Diagram:

YouTube Preview Image

Systematic Lists:

Eliminate Possibilities:

 YouTube Links to Grade 6 Student-Created MathCasts:

Finding the Mean of a Set of Numbers:

Dividing Integers: 

Reading Stacked Bar Graphs:

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