Saturday, August 8, 2009

Summer Math Projects: grade 5

Part I
You've dodged rhinos in JUMANJI, driven down the roads of LIFE, and experienced the ups and downs of CHUTES and LADDERS. Now, take a turn at your own game.
Using what you know and like about your favorite board games, create a math game that uses all the multiplication and division facts up through the twelve times table.

Here are some things to consider as you design your game:
What is the objective of the game?
How would players advance? Would they solve word problems, roll, or spin?
Would players need cards, spinners, number cubes, pencil and paper?

As you prepare your game "Package" be sure to include:
* A title for your game
* A colorful and creative game board
* All the materials needed to play: spinners, number cubes, cards, playing pieces, etc.
* A clearly written set of instructions

Once you have created your game, practice playing it with your family and friends so that you know what works and that players enjoy it.

Part 2
All incoming fifth graders will be expected to show mastery of multiplication facts through the twelves times table. One way to help learn the facts to the level of instant recall is through the use of "flash cards". Students should create their own personalized set using index cards and practice them often to increase their speed and accuracy.


When I was in school, teachers did not ask students to learn their multiplication tables over summer vacation. Rather, this one one of the things they drilled us on in the classroom (in fourth grade).

Nor did my schools require me to do "creative" projects over the summer, or stipulate that creativity be visual. Rather, the free time I had once school, homework, and multiplication mastery were over allowed me to do my own creative projects--where the best kind of creativity, the "personalized" kind, is possible.


Niels Henrik Abel said...

As you prepare your game "Package" be sure to include...A colorful and creative game board

So in other words, were a kid to design a game like chess that was challenging yet had a dull & boring game board, he would be marked down?

I guess that's an indication as to what's truly "important."

Anonymous said...

So...what happens if you just ignore these summer assignments?

Beth said...

AT the risk of repeating myself:

The Homework Myth, Alfie Kohn

The Case Against Homework, Bennett and Kalish

There's also a web site:

That second assignment speaks volumes. They've got your kid for 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, but they haven't taught the times tables! My own daughter was put in accelerated math in 5th grade without knowing her times tables. Then they gave her timed tests which she couldn't get through, partly because it took her so long to get the basic facts straight. Oy.

What does the school think is their job? It's like they're saying, "we didn't get around to teaching your kid, so we've decided you should do it!" Yeah, thanks a lot.

Cheryl van Tilburg said...

Hi Katharine!

Every time I read one of your postings on these "creative projects," it breaks my heart. My family has struggled with this issue also. As a (temporarily retired) teacher, I've spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to handle these situations in a way that helps my child without making his life miserable at school.

Instead of ignoring the assignment (which just causes your child grief at the beginning of the school year), I alter the assignment to make it more appropriate for my child. For example, instead of the board game, I would have my student complete several multiplication worksheets and complete a weekly timed test of multiplication facts.

Then, my son brings the completed worksheets and time tests to school, along with a note from me explaining the "differentiated assignment." I include my phone number so that the teacher can call if he/she has any questions. To date, I haven't received any calls.... (I use this same approach when it comes to poster projects in my kids' English class.)

Is this a pain in the neck? Yes. But the way I figure it, things won't magically change without input from parents and other educators who understand that projects based on creativity aren't appropriate for all children.

It's also important to talk about this option with other parents in your child's class/grade. Other families also struggle with these creative summer projects and would welcome some advice how to handle them. (And there's something comforting about knowing that other parents are in the same boat!)

Things won't change until parents band together and demonstrate that they mean business. It's hard to be the only one to speak up (you and Catherine over at KTM are great role models in this regard -- and many others!) If five children come to class with a "differentiated" summer project, that sends a powerful message to the teacher (that hopefully will be passed on to administrators).

Sorry for the long note, Katharine. I really enjoy reading your blog -- it gives me hope that there are other parents like me.

Cheryl vT

Katharine Beals said...

Thanks for the moral support, guys! Cheryl, I will seriously consider your suggestions. Given the possible backlash against innocent parties, altering rather than ignoring seems the way to go, and I love the "differentiated assignment" note and the idea of enlisting fellow parents.