I had a sneaking suspicion that attendance was going to be down today. I have 22 students. I began the day with 17. Then, over the course of the morning, three were dismissed. Still, there was a lot of energy in the room. It was like the 14 students who remained were trying to fill the void the others left. It didn't make sense to introduce new material in math class. I toyed with a Math In Three Acts but I'd hate for so many kids to miss out. We started the day with a number talk. The strategy was to use partial products to solve more difficult multiplication problems. This strategy is truly connected with the math we're teaching in our core lessons right now. The kids are doing a great job of visualizing arrays and then decomposing the arrays into two or more smaller arrays that make solving the larger problem easier.
I knew we'd be trying something new during our main lesson and I was pretty excited. Steve Wyborney is a math educator who shares his work generously on Twitter (@SteveWyborney). My students have really enjoyed his engaging splat and fraction splat routines. I had recently seen a couple of tweets from 5th and 6th grade teachers endorsing Steve's latest creation, "Esti-Mysteries". I couldn't wait to check them out. They couldn't have been more perfect for my students and the day we were having. From the first moment, I had 100% engagement. The students loved how Steve rolled out the clues and the suspense building in the class was tangible. This routine, due to the clues Steve used, addressed quite a few of our fourth grade learning standards. The mysteries welcomed different approaches and demanded higher-level thinking skills. I knew that the learning had been meaningful when my students cheered at the first reveal. We solved mysteries #1, #2, and #3 today and the kids begged for more.
Here is the thing. Math should be challenging. Math should require kids to dig deep and struggle. Math should be fun. It can be all of these things at the same time. Steve Wyborney has certainly figured out how to get it done. I'm thankful for his work and my students are too!