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Guest Blog Post – 3rd and 4th Grade Math: From a Student's Perspective

Throughout this school year, we will feature guest bloggers to share different perspectives on or experiences with boys education on our Head of School blog. Next up we have a team of guest bloggers: Jonna McGhee, Regis 3rd Grade Teacher, and Kelly Hughes, Regis 4th Grade Teacher. This is part 3 of a multi-part series focusing on math education at Regis.

To showcase what goes on in their classrooms, 3rd and 4th grade math teachers, Jonna McGhee and Kelly Hughes, held a Q & A session with their students about what they have learned this school year and the math program at Regis.

Q: What have you found to be the most challenging part of math this year?

A: "Hmmm. That's hard! Probably measurement. It was difficult because we don't use the metric system every day. Once I got a metric ruler for conversions, it became easier."–Julian, 4th Grade

A: "Homework! There's lots of different methods like number lines, multiplication and division on the homework."–Pablo, 3rd Grade

A: "Division was hard. Skip counting down was hard because it's like doing subtraction mixed with division."–Grant, 3rd Grade

Mrs. McGhee and Mrs. Hughes: The curriculum becomes more rigorous in third grade and fourth grade, and the boys have met the challenge with great perseverance and effort. Our curriculum is vertically aligned so that the boys have a solid foundation heading into middle school. Third grade lays the foundation for large concepts, such as multiplication, division, and fractions. Fourth grade then extends these concepts and begins to master them.

Q: Tell us a little about the tests you have taken this year.

A: "The test we took at the very beginning of the year was really hard. I didn't know anything. But then we took it again in the middle of the year, and it was much easier. At the end of the year it will probably be really easy!"–Adam, 4th Grade

A: "The benchmark test we took at the beginning of the year was really hard, but it got a little easier during the middle of the year. All the types of math on it are different so that made it hard."–Nicolas, 3rd Grade

Mrs. McGhee and Mrs. Hughes: At the beginning of the year the boys took an End of Year test to help guide learning in the classroom. The boys retake the test in January, and again in May, to show us the progress they have made. We use the results to fill in gaps and provide a more rigorous curriculum.

Q: What has been your favorite concept to learn about and why?

A: "Multiplication—once you get to know it, it's pretty easy to do."–Mensah, 3rd Grade

A: "I like fractions because once you get the hang of it, it gets easier and easier."–Elliott, 3rd Grade

A: "Decimals because I didn't know how to do it, and I had really been wanting to learn about them. We learned how to add, subtract, multiply, and divide decimals. It was a lot easier than I thought!"–Chase, 4th Grade

A: "I liked learning about parts-of-a-set in fractions. This was really hard for me at first, but I figured out a short cut. Like if I needed to find ¾ of 16 I realized you can do 16 divided by 4 times 3, the numerator. So ¾ of 16 is 12."–Ignacio B., 4th Grade

Mrs. McGhee and Mrs. Hughes: Multiplication and fractions are big topics covered in third grade. Learning basic multiplication facts was the first step. We used skip-counting and songs to learn the facts and modeled what the facts looked like with pictures. We used several strategies to learn 2 digit by 1 digit multiplication. We used fraction bars, cubes and number lines to model, compare and order fractions.

Fractions can be the most difficult concept in fourth grade. Fractions are notoriously remembered as the most awful concept in math, and we work hard to ensure that our students do not remember them that way. Third grade does a great job laying the foundations and understanding what fractions look like. In fourth grade, we really dive deep and learn how to add, subtract, multiply, and divide fractions with like and unlike denominators.

Q: What has been your favorite hands-on lesson or activity?

A: "I like Dreambox because you have to overcome different challenges, and as you go through Dreambox, it gets harder and harder. It's so satisfying to earn a certificate for different math games. I love all the different worlds. I just like it because it makes learning fun."–Christian, 3rd Grade

A: "I liked using the rubberbands with the geoboards because we got to create fractions. It was really fun to do it."–Nicolas, 3rd grade

A: "I get excited when we get to play Trashketball. We usually play when we are trying to study for a test or quiz. Mrs. Hughes puts us in two groups, and asks us questions. If it is your turn and you get the answer right, you get to shoot from the 2 point line or the 3 point line. If you get it wrong, the other team can steal your points. I like playing this because it helps us study and it's not boring—it is actually fun!"–Eli, 4th grade

Mrs. McGhee and Mrs. Hughes: All of these student responses share a different learning style, which is important when teaching. We try to incorporate technology, manipulatives and games into all topics we teach to reach all the students' learning styles and preferences. Offering variety is important when learning!

Q: Tell me about Number Corner.

A: "Number Corner has different things like arrays, fractions, shapes, colors, patterns, and it's challenging because it's hard to find the patterns."–Pierce R., 3rd Grade

A: "I think it's fun and good because it's challenging. The patterns are really hard to figure out, and it's good because it takes time to figure them out."–John, 3rd Grade

A: "I like number corner because you do a different pattern every month. My favorite month so far was the first one because it was Egyptian Numbers. I like how they were different from ours. It was the most fun because it was hard to figure out what the pattern was or what the numbers meant."–Carter, 4th Grade

Mrs. McGhee and Mrs. Hughes: We've implemented a new component to the math curriculum this year. Number Corner provides a quick, engaging mini-lesson that introduces, reinforces and extends critical math skills. Over the course of the month, students predict and post new markers in the Calendar Grid pocket chart and collect, record and analyze the data Students are also encouraged to discuss observations and draw conclusions. Many days also feature problem-solving activities or games to provide practice for key third and fourth grade math skills.

Q: If you were a math teacher, what and how would you teach?

A: "I'd teach division and multiplication. I would make it easy some days and other days harder. I would teach them before the math quiz, and I would give them extra recess."–Mateo, 3rd Grade

A: "I would teach algebra, and I would probably make it easier for the kids that can't do it as well and make it harder for the kids that can do it."–John, 3rd Grade

A: "I would like to teach geometry because it's my favorite math subject. I like it the most because it has shapes, rays, and angles. I think I like it because it is all pictures instead of word problems. I really don't like word problems."–Jack S., 4th Grade

A: "I would teach math with toys because the kids would like it. I could teach addition and subtraction with Legos to younger kids."–Henry, 4th Grade

Mrs. McGhee and Mrs. Hughes: Regis provides a variety of resources to promote the mastery of math skills. Math in Focus, Bridges in Math for Number Corner, Sadlier and our math specialist Laura Lopez are all great resources available to teachers at Regis. Encouraging confidence and independence in learning math skills while challenging the boys with enrichment activities is the balance we strive for.

Q: What does a typical day in math look like?

A: "First, we start with Number Corner, and then usually we grab a white board and marker and do a lesson or practice a topic, then we do an assignment sometimes with a partner. Then we do math stations at the end of the day with someone from the other class."–Duncan, 3rd Grade

A: "First we start the day in Number Corner. Then Mrs. Hughes teaches us a lesson. After the lesson, we go into our centers. We have four centers: Teacher Time, Partner Practice, Independent Intelligence, and Computer Corner. In Teacher Time, Mrs. Hughes teaches the lesson again or gives us harder problems. Partner practice is usually a fun math game to play. Independent Intelligence is work we have to do by ourselves and Computer Corner is either Dreambox or IXL."–Tate C., 4th Grade

Mrs. McGhee and Mrs. Hughes: As teachers, our job is to find a routine and structure that works for our group of boys. Each of our classes is structured to meet the needs of our boys. A typical day in 3rd and 4th grade may look different, but the schedule is consistent. We both introduce a topic, provide a lot of modeling and enrichment, have the boys practice the skill cooperatively and independently, then review and extend the skill in math stations and through homework.

Q: Is there anything else you want families to know about math at Regis?

A: "A lot of the times we have a lot of fun games we learn and get to play."–Jackson, 3rd Grade

A: "Our teachers are great and fun and amazing!"–Mateo, 3rd Grade

A: "It is challenging!"–Braxton, 4th Grade

Mrs. McGhee and Mrs. Hughes: As teachers of all boys, we understand the importance of planning lessons that are engaging and make the boys excited to come to class each day! Bringing the math concepts to life with hands-on activities makes teaching math at Regis fun and exciting!

Bio: This is Jonna's first year at The Regis School of the Sacred Heart. Jonna has 10 years of teaching experience. Prior to joining Regis as a third grade teacher, Jonna served as a part-time Pre-K teacher at West U Methodist School and as a 3rd grade math and science teacher and 2nd grade teacher at Hunters Creek Elementary. She holds a B.A. from Texas State University.

Bio: This is Kelly's first year at The Regis School of the Sacred Heart. Prior to joining Regis as a fourth grade teacher, Kelly taught Kindergarten, 3rd and 1st grade at another Houston-area private school. She is certified to teach Early Childhood through 6th grade and has ESL certification. A native of Austin, Texas, Kelly received a B.A. in Education from the University of Texas at Austin.