Before They Hatch
"Today we are going to do another math problem," Yvonne Burch tells her eager first grade students at Glassell Park Elementary School, "but today the book will be 'Mrs. Sato's Hens.'
"On Sunday," she begins, "I went to see Mrs. Sato's hens. On Monday, we counted two white eggs!"
Ms. Burch teaches mathematics using an open-ended questioning technique that requires "more than a one-word answer of simple recall." These techniques were developed by a leadership network of pre-kindergarten through 6th grade LAUSD teachers who facilitate workshops designed to help teachers apply mathematical content knowledge in the classroom.
"This program ties together practice, skills, and literacy," says Burch, "and with these kids it is their English literacy, because they were all in a bilingual program last year.
"These are basically story problems," she explains. "The children take cues from literature, extract the mathematics, and then solve a problem that we've framed after reading the book.
"In this story, the objective is to try and figure out how many eggs the little girl found when she went to Mrs. Sato's hen house.
"How many eggs do you think there are," she asks her students, "and how do you know your answer is correct?"
"I want them to reflect the information that's in the book, and show me how they get to the answers, on paper, using their writing skills."
Burch feels "if you use a strictly traditional approach, kids might be able to master the skills with practice, and perform well on a test, but when you re-visit it in a month, it's gone.
"When you review it later and say, 'remember what we did with Mrs. Sato's eggs?' 'Oh, yes!' They remember that! Once they're able to write about it and explain it to somebody else, it becomes more of a real experience for them, it is no longer an abstract 2+2 = 4. They can show you, they can prove it to you. It's almost like a calculus proof ... at the first grade level!"
For more information, contact Local MST Centers Los Angeles Unified School District
Instructional Support Services
333 S. Beaudry, 25th Floor, 151-9 Los Angeles, CA 90017 Phone (213) 241-6420 Fax (213) 241-8469 www.lausd.k12.ca.us/lausd/offices/lasi