Finding Your Spot With Order of Operations and Integers

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Order of Operations is painful enough as it is (takes me back to my high school self), but to add in integers! It’s a potential disaster! So many rules to remember and too many exponents to trip us up. Add in a split grade with varying levels of integer understanding and toss some “I love math” kids in for good measure. Basically, it’s nearing my worst nightmare! 🙂

But, we’re persevering through and had a great class on Friday that I thought I should reflect on. Learners “seemed” to be fully engaged, working at their own level and using multiple learning skills throughout the process. To me, that’s a good math lesson (especially when one places it alongside one of my typical math classes).

Preparing for this kind of lesson is an ongoing task. We began (in the Fall) by developing an understanding that we bring different things to the learning table. Some of these things are already strengths, some need to be developed. BUT, they’re different for each of us. Then, all year I’ve been reminding the students about growth mindset and the importance of starting where you are and moving forward. We’ve talked A LOT about this (which they would attest to and probably groan about!). That’s led us to lessons like this – ones where the students self-assess, determine a start point and then work forward from there.

On Thursday, we worked on Order of Operations with Integers (in partner and small groups). During this stage, there was a lot of math talk. Students reminded each other of the different math rules, challenged neighboring groups and did a little bit of head-slapping (only to themselves) when necessary! They maintained focus and determination, even through some good laughs about the difficulty of remembering everything! Groups were strategic with 8s partnering up to mentor 7s – a key component in preparing many of the 7s for the independent phase.

On Friday, I prepped the board with 4 levels of work (starting at 2-step and moving up to 5-step). I used the worksheets from Math-Drills, a go-to site when students need practice with a concept. We started class by meeting together to discuss our previous learning and self-assess. After that, students were given free reign to work wherever their “best spot” was. I circulated to provide assistance, took a few photos and listened to their discussions. Every student impressed me! They were working with confidence, problem solving with use of math vocabulary, double checking with peers and meeting with me when necessary. I’m really, really proud of them!

We’ll do one more period with this on Tuesday, as some need a bit more practice (and there were a number of students absent on Friday). I’m wondering about the ones who have “mastered” it though. Maybe they should create some integer problems for their peers… Seems like a logical next step (one they’ll be totally annoyed with I’m sure….).

All in all, a good day’s math work. So very happy, though, that Bradford didn’t ask me “So, when will I use order of operations with integers in real-life?” That, I wouldn’t have been prepared for! 🙂


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