# I Am Obsessed With Visuals

I can’t stop using visuals in elementary math. They are on every anchor chat, every lesson plan, every assignment if possible. It started last year when I noticed students were having trouble understanding place value until I made a visual 100 chart.

When students have a visual to connect mathematics to, it’s like something magical starts to happen. Students who excel want to make their own visuals, students who struggle start to understand…it’s truly remarkable.

You might be wondering more about what I mean by visuals. I’m going to introduce you to Berkeley Everett at Math Visuals. He is a K-5 Math Specialist out in California that has been working on making math come to life with visual animation. It’s truly remarkable the amount of hours he has put into this task, and it’s all FREE.

Need to learn to count in kindergarten? There’s a visual for that.

Need to see different types of division? There’s a visual for that.

Need to understand the concept behind compensation in addition? There’s a visual for that.

Need to work on different ways to represent two digit numbers using place value concepts? Theres a visual for that, too.

Go to this site and you’ll be lost for hours. Better yet, it will inspire you to create your own visuals on your math anchor charts. It will inspire your students to connect those very abstract math concepts to something that they can hold in their brain.

Thank you Berkeley, you’ve made me a better math teacher, and helped a whole lot of students at our school.

# Test Prep without Pain

Math test prep for spring standardized testing is always a bit daunting. Teachers face the same dilemma every year:

1. Trust that we’ve taught everything we need to teach and go in with the confidence that students can apply it….
2. Panic about things such as spiral review, cram in one last topic/unit, review vocabulary words and teach best test taking tips…

Both of those options are perfectly okay, but both make teachers and students feel a bit uncomfortable.  Without teaching any test prep, we worry that students won’t be able to “figure out” questions. Students feel nervous not knowing what to expect and want to feel confident going in. But too much test prep stresses out the teacher and the students, putting tons of pressure on them as they go into a testing situation.

I propose some test prep (for math anyway) without the pain of these feelings.  I came up with Reasoning Puzzles when we first began teaching with the Common Core State Standards.  As I looked at our state test, last year I realized the rigor has most definitely increased, especially the ability for our students to take apart questions and look for multiple solutions and answers.

Instead of flashing up multiple choice questions, students participate in small group discussion about “puzzles”and statements about those puzzles. Allowing them to talk over these puzzles, and make their mathematical thinking visible to each other, they become much more confident.  Testing truly is just trying to make sense of a problem, and looking for small nuances in how the question is asked, combined with calculations of some sort. This sort of test prep is fun, builds confidence in your students, and if done all year can create very powerful mathematicians.

I used them with my own third graders for years, and now with my intervention students.  I received a tweet from a woman named Lisa who took it even a step further and had her students write their own statements. What a great way to extend the learning!

Reasoning Puzzles give students a chance to think critically and to use the standards for mathematical practice effectively.  Feel free to check out the free sample to try them yourself if you’d like.