After hearing a friend say how he has been previewing math concepts with his daughter to provide a foundation he knew might be missed in class, I decided to support my daughter in the same manner. My oldest daughter is entering middle school this upcoming school year. As a building level coach and district specialist, I’ve observed the struggles students have with transitioning from 5th grade standards to 6th grade standards. From my experience, this struggle is related to middle school teachers not having a complete understanding of the 5th grade standards and how they directly connect to their grade level standards.
With this knowledge, I decided to create a plan to preview the concepts my daughter will learn in Unit 1 of 6th grade math. These concepts include:
- Divide multi-digit whole numbers using the standard algorithm
- Add, subtract, multiply and divide decimals fluently
- Apply GCF and LCM
- Interpret the quotient of fractions
My oldest hasn’t had the easiest time in math. She has battled with being flexible in her mathematical thinking and gets bogged down with procedures. In school she has learned many tricks without understanding. I’ve found it to be difficult to counteract these tricks at home once they are the topic of discussion during class. But finally, conceptual understanding will have the upper hand, or at least that’s the plan.
As I pondered the best way to approach this preview, I thought of what would be most helpful and effective for Jocelyn. She’s one who needs to know what’s next and the order in which things will happen. She’s a social butterfly who is empowered by forward thinking friends. With all of this, I decided it would be best to open the opportunity up to some of her closest friends. A group of girls, a mixture of those who have excelled and others who have struggled.
So here’s the plan:
- Meet at the library twice a week for 30 minutes each time
- Be explicit about the connection between 5th grade standards and 6th grade standards
- Assign a “project” for the girls to do for the week while at home. These projects consist of 3 act tasks, open middle problems and tasks from the Georgia Department of Education mathematics frameworks.
- Provide the group with notes to use during the unit of study once school starts
- Use the app GroupMe so the girls can converse about the projects. I called the group Great Girl Mathematicians, mainly because I wanted to instill that this group of girls is great and are mathematicians no matter the struggles.
In subsequent posts, I’ll share the actual content we discuss. With them, I hope it will help 6th grade teachers and parents of rising 6th graders to make the transition to middle school more empowering and less awkward.