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Mastering Math: Hands-On Activities Help Students

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PETERSBURG, Mich. (AP) – Leigh Ozuk walked around her first grade classroom noticing the ways her students divided up six blocks.
Then, students were grouped into categories based how each one divided the blocks and were sent to different corners of the classroom. The small groups announced aloud how they broke up their blocks.

After each group spoke, students went back to their desks to write out a math fact. The activity repeated until the four possibilities of breaking down the number six was complete.

The activity is part of Summerfield Elementary School’s new math program, Math in Focus the Singapore Way.

“This is a lot more hands-on,” the teacher said. “We do a lot of modeling and talking about the concept that a part is a part of the whole.”

To emphasize the concept, students were asked to repeat the pairings to show that adding two plus four, for example, or four plus two, would still add up to six.

Summerfield Schools unveiled the math program at the start of the school year after evaluating five other programs.

Math in Focus was introduced in 2009. Summerfield is teaching the program to kindergarten through second-grade students and could possibly expand the program to the rest of the school in the future.

The program underscores a stronger mathematical foundation for students. It emphasizes number and operations in each grade, as is recommended in the Common Core Standards.

“We noticed the kids could computate, but they needed higher level of thinking,” said Principal Jodi Bucher. “We are making sure our kids master the subjects.”

Five areas are outlined in the program including a focused syllabus, utilizing visual elements, focusing on number and operations, emphasizing problem solving and recognizing the importance of attitudes and metacognition.

“This program helps the kids to visualize the numbers,” Ozuk explained.

Fewer topics are introduced in each grade, but teachers emphasize the topics in greater depth. Through the years, mastery is emphasized so concepts build from year to year without repetition.

Recently, . Ozuk’s class used the Smartboard to solve addition problems and discuss measurements.

Marissa Eastman, 6, used the board to play a memory game while classmates assisted her in determining which boxes she needed to select in order for two of them to add up to six.

In another activity, Marissa, with the help of her classmates, had to add up a series of boxes with blue and red circles. In all, 21 circles were present. . Ozuk asked her students how they came to their answers.

“I was counting all of them,” Abby Neiding said.

Another student had a different strategy. “I know that 10 plus 10 is 20 and if I add another one, it’s 21,” Emma Carr said.

Supt. Jack Hewitt said the district wanted a program that would continue bolstering Michigan Educational Assessment Scores. . Bucher said six teachers spent time studying the other programs before the district selected Math in Focus.

Breaking down the concepts helps the students to better understand, . Ozuk said.

“This really helps them to visualize the concepts,” she said. “The kids are developing good number sense and as the program goes on, their skills get stronger.”

In future years, students will be able to use the same concepts for tougher challenges including algebra.

“The numbers are bigger, but the concepts are the same,” Ozuk said.

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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