## August 31, 2016

### Math Problem Solving: Knowing Where to Begin

Teaching kids to how to solve math problems is a huge challenge, but often the biggest challenge is knowing where to begin instruction. Without administering some type of pretest, you risk boring your students with problems that are too easy or frustrating them with problems that may seem impossible.

Before you begin, you need to have some idea of their current problem solving skills. For example:
• How do they attack different types of problems?
• What strategies do they use?
• Are they functioning below grade level, at grade level, or above?
• If they struggle, is it due to poor computation skills, poor reading skills, or misconceptions about basic math concepts?
The Problem with Problem Solving Pretests
Unfortunately, most math word problem pretests don't provide enough information to help us answer those questions, let alone know where to begin instruction. Many tests are so challenging that kids who've been out of school all summer are likely to give up after making a token effort to solve the first few problems. Also, most tests use a multiple choice format which makes them easy to grade, but not so easy to interpret. Students don't have a place next to each problem to show their work, so you're left guessing as to the reason they missed each incorrect answer.

## August 1, 2016

### Secrets of Launching a Stellar School Year

What if you could walk into the class of your dreams this year? Of course you'd jump at the chance! But what does that mean? What would your "dream class" be like? Would the students be self-motivated and excited about learning? Would they treat each other with kindness and respect? Might you look forward to Monday mornings instead of dreading them????

Believe it or not, this year's class could be your dream class. In fact, the secret to having an amazing class might be directly tied to what you do during the first week of school, and it might not have much to do with who's assigned to your classroom roster!

Consider this: When you know how to unlock the amazing potential in every student, magic happens in the classroom!

I know from personal experience that what teachers say and do during the first week of school sets the tone for the rest of the year. Unfortunately, it took me YEARS to figure out how to launch a great school year, and it wasn't always easy. I knew it was essential to get the school year off to a great start from day one, but I had so many unanswered questions about the right way to accomplish this. How can we find the right balance between being friendly and setting clear expectations? Should we seat our students in rows or in cooperative learning teams on the first day of school? Is it true that we shouldn’t crack a smile until Christmas?

After years of trying different strategies during the first week of school, I finally nailed down a system that really works. In the process, I discovered that it's actually a lot easier than you might imagine to create a caring classroom of students who are motivated and excited about school!