Fifth-graders at Athol-Royalston Middle School learn to think like mathematicians

  • Students in Laura McDaniel's fifth-grade math class at Athol-Royalston Middle School discuss complex math problems grounded in real-life scenarios. Contributed photo

For The Athol Daily News
Published: 4/7/2022 3:03:43 PM
Modified: 4/7/2022 3:03:06 PM

ATHOL — Laura McDaniel is masterful at making math a fun and exciting time for her fifth-graders in the math class at Athol-Royalton Middle School (ARMS). She brings all of the children into a conversation about math by asking thought-provoking questions reviewing, evaluating and refreshing the prior week’s lessons about fractions and what the class had learned. They then discuss what they think that they will be learning in the class that particular day.

The children sit in groups to discuss complex math problems grounded in real-life scenarios. Each group journals their responses and tries to explain their thinking about how the answers were reached. It is not necessarily the answer that is the most important thing in this math class, but the process and understanding of how the answers were reached that is the most important concept.

McDaniel’s lessons incorporate the eight mathematical practices for the Common Core Math Standards in the curriculum:

1. Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them

2. Reason abstractly and quantitatively

3. Consult viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others

4. Model with mathematics

5. Use appropriate tools strategically (scale vs. ruler)

6. Attend to precision (use correct mathematical words)

7. Look for and make use of structure

8. Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning

Each student is challenged daily and builds confidence in their math reasoning and answers while always being encouraged and praised.

The children were enjoying the math lessons and were fully involved in the learning process. The students are not the only ones engaged. Math teachers at ARMS engage in ongoing support from Mount Holyoke College mathematics leaders. ARMS teachers participate in collaborative lesson planning with the goals being to encourage students as mathematicians while developing conceptual understanding of math. ARMS math teachers are guided through intentional and team-focused planning, engage in a math lab model where they observe their colleagues teach, and reflect on how students access lessons.

McDaniel and her team of math teachers at ARMS have developed a strong team approach to ensuring their students learn to love and deeply understand math.

Joanne Davidson is the newsletter developer for Athol Royalston Regional School District.

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