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Brainy Apples: Strengthen Your Students' Math Skills With Daily Math Reviews and Word Problem of the Day
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Strengthen Your Students' Math Skills With Daily Math Reviews and Word Problem of the Day


I must say that when my district finally made the move to letting us teach math units, I was beyond ecstatic. Previously, we taught multiple math skills every 9 weeks, never to the mastery of the standard. For example, for money, 1st 9 weeks we taught counting money up to $1 (this was 2nd grade); 2nd 9 weeks we taught counting money up to $5; 3rd 9 weeks we taught counting money up to $20; and 4th 9 weeks we taught giving back change from $5. While this may sound great in theory (I guess it sounds great in theory. I never liked teaching math this way), having to teach money, computation, measurement, number sense, etc. EVERY.SINGLE.QUARTER was beyond exhausting and difficult for the kids. It was really hard to get good solid assessment of what students mastered because we really could only teach a skill for about 1 week before moving on to the next. For kids who catch on quick, this wasn't an issue. For my little ones who needed constant practice, this proved to be extremely difficult.

So when the standards-based report changed to units each 9 weeks, I was jumping for joy. I also knew, too, that I needed to have something in place so my kids would not forget math skills from units we completed. Ideally math builds from one skill to the next, so you are using learned skills to teach new ones. But that isn't always the case. I guess I did see ONE benefit from laddering math skills all year long, and that was old skills constantly came back up. I also loved using Calendar Math on a daily basis because when we counted money every day, by the time the money unit came up, most of my kids had a solid understanding of each coin and were already counting change. Sure, some of my students still didn't understand money even after counting coins for 103 days, but they did have more background knowledge than if we hadn't counted coins for 103 days. Thinking about these things, I decided to create a product I could use with my students from day1 because I did not want them to forget math skills we had learned earlier in the year, and I also wanted to give my kids daily exposure to skills we would be learning later in the year so they would have background knowledge.

I know some teachers don't want to spend time having students solve math problems involving skills they have not yet taught, and I do agree with that to an extent. If students are going to be making mistakes, then they shouldn't be completing these problems. It will just create bad habits you have to break later on. The expectation you set for the Daily Math Review has to be clear for students.

What Are Daily Math Reviews?
My Daily Math Reviews are set up so that each day students are practicing one problem from each of the grade level's math domains. For grades 1and 2, that means they have 4 problems to solve from the following domains: Number and Operations in Base Ten, Operations and Algebraic Thinking, Geometry, and Measurement and Data. For grades 3-5, add in the domain of Numbers and Operations-Fractions for 5 problems. In about 10-15 minutes each day, my students are refreshing and previewing math skills from each domain. 

How Are My Daily Math Reviews Different?
I created a Daily Math Review for each month of the year for each grade level. July begins the year with June ending the year. July and August include standards from the previous grade level, and May and June include a preview to the following grade level's standards. The first few months of DMR (July, August, and September) are much easier than the last few months (April, May, and June). I wanted students to become used to completing the DMR and gain confidence before moving onto more challenging problems. Some of the problems are basic computation, but, as the year progresses, I include more multi-step word problems for the skills and less basic computational problems. Many teachers and parents who have used my DMR have commented that they were challenging at first for students to complete. However, students' math abilities improved greatly as a result of using these and they were able to solve more complex problems with ease.

Every month includes 4 weeks of DMR, and each week includes 5 days. That means that there are 20 days worth of DMR for every month. School calendars differ, and I wanted to provide enough days of DMR to fit your calendar. You may not use every day, and that's OK. The most important thing is that you will not run out of DMR pages! If your school year ends in May, you can run copies of the June and July (for their next grade level) editions for your students to keep their skills sharp over the summer. If your year ends in June, you will have plenty of days to use until summer break!


Students are at different readiness levels and ability levels. It's important to be able to differentiate based on your students. When I taught 2nd grade, some of my kiddos were at a struggling 1st grade level, while others were at a 3rd grade level. Some of the math standards are similar from one grade level to the next, varying in the degree of difficulty of that particular skill. I wanted to be able to provide extra support or challenge my students. When I taught 2nd grade, I did not give ALL of my students the 2nd grade edition. Most of my students got the 2nd grade edition, I had a handful that got the 1st grade edition, and a few more that got the 3rd grade edition. Many of the problems are similar from one grade level to the next (depending on how similar the standards are), so my students were not solving completely different problems, just problems on their level.

I love teaching thematically. And my students love it, too. It helps create a common thread among all the subject areas, and it also helps my students become more excited about certain things they might not otherwise like…such as math. They would much rather solve problems about spiders than Jan and Jack. So, for every month, there are 4 monthly themes worked into the math problems. Most of the themes match up with the time of year, and the other themes are high-interest for students. For example, September includes the themes of Johnny Appleseed, football, baseball, and trees. August includes the themes of planets, pirates, chameleons, and the ocean. On the cover of each edition are pictures that show that month's themes. 

How I Use Daily Math Reviews
I found great success using my Daily Math Reviews, but my students also knew that if there was a problem they totally didn't understand, it was OK to not attempt it. There were more problems not attempted at the beginning of the school year, and that is completely fine. I used my DMR as morning work and the first few minutes of math. I gave my students about 10 minutes to work on the day's problems, then we spent about 5-10 minutes going over them. I did not use actual math time for my students to complete the review, but I did use actual math time to go over the review. I did not offer in depth explanations for the skills we had yet to cover through a unit, but I did show students how to solve those problems. I spent more time on the problems that we were either currently working on or had already learned. Over time, more and more students were solving the problems that included skills we had yet to learn simply because of the daily exposure to those skills. Most days I went over the DMR in groups because I used math stations in my classroom. This was very beneficial because students were not all completing the same grade level edition, so it allowed me to focus on each group's strengths and weaknesses for the specific grade level they were completing.

I loved using parent volunteers in my classroom, and I actually trained a few of my volunteers on how to go over the DMR with my students. I loved the option of being able to use the DMR as a center with a parent volunteer once or twice a week.

I include a monthly spreadsheet with each DMR. You can use this page to track student progress over time. I created a key to show how students were doing. A check plus meant that a student completed the problem correctly on his/her own, a check meant that a student completed the problem but needed some help, a star meant that a student incorrectly completed a problem, and I left a box blank if a student did not attempt the problem. This helped me see trends over time, and if students were really struggling with specific standards. I used these progress sheets to create flexible math groups based on specific skills during RTI time.

I sent each month's DMR off to the copy center to be double-sided copied and stapled into packets for my students (you could also have them hole-punched and place them in a pronged pocket folder). This way they couldn't lose pages, and, at the end of every month, I collected these to keep in their portfolios. I stapled their progress sheet to the top of the packet so I could easily gauge student progress, or easily have data for IST/SST meetings.

The Benefits of Using My Daily Math Reviews
I used these DMR on a consistent, daily basis in my classroom. Over time I saw my students' math skills improve dramatically, and they became independent and successful problem solvers. I found that when we finally got to our money unit or our line plot unit, most of my students had such a strong background knowledge that they mastered the content more quickly than students in previous years before I used these DMR. I also found that I had to do less reteaching of certain skills because of the constant review of those skills. I was able to easily differentiate for my students using different grade level editions, so my students were spending time each day targeting specific strengths and weaknesses based on their abilities. I was able to see if a student who struggled at the beginning of the year on a specific skill was still struggling months later very quickly without having to give a separate formative assessment. I can't tell you how many times I pulled out a student's progress sheets stapled to the monthly packets for data to present in an IST or SST meeting. It was great documentation that didn't take any extra time on my part! Oh, yeah, and answer keys are included for easy grading!

Need an Editable Version of My Daily Math Review?
I am currently in the process of adding an editable version of my DMR as we speak! Although I don't recommend altering the problems because I purposely included each problem in a systematic progression, if there is a specific skill you just don't teach at all, I did want to offer you a chance to tweak it to fit your needs. So far I have added editable files to the February through May editions for each grade level. If you have already purchased these editions, you can download the updated file for FREE! Just go to the "My Purchases" tab on your TpT dashboard and redownload the file. I know some people are not fans of zip files, but it is very easy to open a zip file. Just right click on the folder and click "unzip." I had to use zip files because I found out that the clarity of the PDF became blurred when I inserted jpegs for each page. I decided to keep the original PDF file and add a new ppt file with the editable portion. Now you can have the best of both worlds! If you have purchased this file and can't get the folder to unzip, please email me at hleblanc@2brainyapples.com with your TpT username, and I will send you the files separately. My plan is to have all the editions in an editable version this summer. 

**Please know that you MAY NOT use the editable version to create your own product to sell. This editable version is only to be used for the purchaser's OWN classroom use. You MAY NOT tweak the editable file and use it commercially. If you use the editable version and sell it, you will be violating my copyright terms.**

Did my students struggle at the beginning of the year completing these? Yes! Did these DMR become easier for them to complete as the year went on? Yes! Were these DMR responsible for my students math skills improving dramatically? Absolutely! Do I want you to give my DMR a try? Of course!

Want to Try Out My Daily Math Review?
You can snag a free week's worth of my DMR by visiting my TpT shop {click here}. I wanted to let you try out this resource free for a week to see if it is something that you could use. I also wanted to give my dear blog readers a little something extra special, so if you want to receive the July edition for FREE, please email me at hleblanc@2brainyapples.com. This way you can look at an entire month for free, and even use it for a month for free, before committing to the full year. I have multiple options available from single month to monthly bundles. The larger the bundle, the greater the savings! Click on each grade level to go to my TpT shop where you can check out the 12 month bundle: 1st grade, 2nd grade, 3rd grade, 4th grade, and 5th grade.

Worried about adding 4-5 problems a day to your math block? Maybe my Word Problem of the Day packs are better for you {click here}. Like my DMR, these spiral through all the math standards, but instead of multiple problems a day, there is just one. Each week contains at least one problem from each of the math domains.

Do you currently use my DMR? How do you like it? Are you interested but not quite sure? What are your reservations? I would love to hear from you!

***If you liked what you read please consider subscribing to my email list. You will receive free goodies, blog posts, and updates right to your inbox! Just click here to join.

Heather
**Please excuse any typos as I don't have the super power of being perfect :)

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