Monday, 20 August 2012

I just build towers with them!

All our Apps come from a NEED whether this be a past colleague or a random email from a user. Mainly, they come from my tutoring efforts and the NEED to reach into a little person's brain and tap into where they are at... because it isn't happening at school or with other methods.

So... here's the story behind Little Monkey Apps Place Value MAB.

I’ve been tutoring my neice Miss Ten again and we’ve been working on number facts to ten, twenty. She gets the tens frame, she gets that if she knows 5+5 is ten then 15+5 is 20. So to mix things up a little we played a game called double plus one. So 5+6 is like 5+5+1. Having her talk about her thinking is REALLY helping her to become cognizant of what it is she is actually doing. 

At the end of the session though, she appealed to me, “But Aunty Leasha all of this doesn’t help me when I have to do addition with regrouping!” Ah, I thought, its time to transfer this knowledge to something that is undertaught in our classrooms today…. Mathematical Manipulatives! Yes! Hands on stuff. “Do you use MAB at school?” I asked her. She rolled her eyes and replied, “I just build towers with them!”

I remember as a kid throwing the ones (minis, units) across the table at one of my peers. I remember some kid putting ones up his nose and two tens (longs) in his mouth like fangs. As a teacher, I was always finding ones in inconspicuous places and tripping over them even after I thought they’d been well packed away…vacuum cleaners DO NOT pick them up! 

Not having any Multibase Arithmetic Blocks at home (and no access to school supplies since being on Leave with Little Angel) I pulled out a pack of craft icypole sticks, rubber bands and a shoe box and made her make me bundles of ten, then advance to 36, 29, 45, 92, 105. We played games with dice, and had races to make the number rolled. We rolled dice again, made the number with sticks and then… added them together… but what happens, I asked her with the bundles and sticks. You’ve got 47 and 29? Oh my goodness…. Regrouping!!!!  

On a large place value mat (laminated A3 placemat) we wrote HTU (hundreds tens and units) and put the bundles and sticks in the right place. We wrote the problem out on the mat and she saw that when written out vertically on the place value mat the problem was, “like at school!”  We then wrote the problems out first, then used the sticks and bundles to solve the problem. 

I was hoping to have her transfer her knowledge of doubles and near doubles to this situation and to use bundles of pencils and glue beans on sticks in sessions following. 

Creating an MAB App was on my mind to create because I had no access to the real equipment and couldn’t afford to buy it for tutoring one child. 
By this time, Little Angel was awake. I grabbed the playdough to keep her amused, but it was clear that she wanted the icypole sticks to stick into the playdough. Looking at Miss Ten and Little Angel I asked them both, “Want to build a tower?”

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Recording, Reporting and Statistics

Lately, we have had a few requests for our Apps to record data and statistics. Some of our Apps do this such as Timestables, but many of our Apps just congratulate on the correct answer or prompt too high or too low. We have added a few "stars" or "points" boards to our apps as feedback to student in response to this; however, we stand firm on not over-analyzing every step a child takes!

As a professional I understand the benefits of recording data and being data driven in your teaching. In Victoria, Australia, there is SINE numeracy testing, Observation Survey literacy testing for the junior classes and NAPLAN Australia wide standardised testing Years 3, 5. There are other tests schools implement such as the PAT Maths and Comprehension, SA spelling test, CARS and MARS. I personally utilized the DMT tests in my classroom as a comprehensive fail-safe in order to ascertain understanding of key concepts. All of the tests mentioned when used correctly are valid forms of assessment and inform teaching. 

When it comes to every day classroom assessment there comes a point that you might want to stop and think what is the point of assessing (and recording) every little step. Am I doing this activity as a valuable learning activity or to test if the child has grasped the concept? Am I presenting an environment where learning itself is valued? Will this assessment be valid, reliable and consistent, genuine, ongoing, involve feedback and reflection? Will the assessment improve student performance or direct teaching? Will the assessment be OF Learning, FOR learning or AS learning? Heard of that phrase. Basically what I'm trying to say is that Little Monkey Apps doesn't assess...You do... You know why you are assessing (and How) If YOU choose to use any Little Monkey Apps to assess your students great!

Sure, we could add statistics to each of our Apps but what do those numbers really tell you? Unless you are sitting beside the child 1:1, there is no way you will be able to tell if Max who got 15/20 was just lucky or really has the skill down pat or if Harriet who got 10/20 wasn’t just pressing the wrong answer because she liked the response of the deflated ‘farting’ balloon when she got a number too low. 

Speaking of sitting beside a child (or small group of children) using the App…that is how I use Little Monkey Apps to assess a child.


The teaching module came about because I personally use use the teaching module to teach and assess. Use it to present a problem or have the child show and explain what they are doing. I know you don’t have time to do this every minute with every child, but you also don’t have the time to look at statistics that mean nothing.  

Want a more reputable source? 

Snakes and Subitising

Have you ever played snakes and ladders (or any board game) with a four and a seven year old? Ignore the need to win, the wriggling mess that they become when they slide down a snake or the bragging when they climb a ladder…. And look at what happens when they roll the die…

Oh if Miss Four counted the die dots one by one, one more time Master Seven was going to scream! “Six, the die is six, why do you need to count every dot… when it looks like that it is a six!” Master Seven was annoyed with her because he was able to subitise, while she had yet to grasp this automatic knowledge. 

Subitising (or subitizing) is the ability to automatically recognise a small group of objects…like on a die or a collection of counters or on a ten frame. It helps with the four processes, counting on, counting back, automatic recall, trusting the count, self checking… I could go on.

Miss Four couldn’t do it, yet! How could I help her? My experience with early mathematic skills has led me to believe that exposure, real life and game situations provide this ‘help’. Most importantly though, is the ability for Miss Four to explain how and why she knows ‘it’. Metacognition and ability to explain how you have reached an answer is paramount in building a solid understanding of mathematics. 

What about Master Seven? Sure, he could subitise a die, but what about when it came to other patterns or objects other than dots? What if I changed them around? 

For our next game, we made our own die.  Not to change too much around, we used sticky dots. We even added a seven, eight, nine and ten. The four year old didn’t get it and still needed to count from one but Master Seven was able to verbalise what he was doing ‘in his brain’ to subitise the numbers. 

Needless to say, that is why Little Monkey Apps SubitisingFlash Cards was created. We hope you like it.