Keeping Math Engaging in Your Classroom by Matthew Cheek
Teachers everywhere spend hours creating lessons and activities for their students. Their goal is to strike a balance, to create something that not only educates their students but also engages them. The world’s most educational lesson can fall apart in mere seconds if it is not engaging or captivating to the student. Likewise, an engaging lesson with no substance or inherent educational value will fail to progress a student’s learning in the desired way. Learning how to take advantage of this balance can take years of experience to gain and even longer to perfect. Luckily, teachers aren’t in the fight alone. Products like Tangible Play’s Osmo are willing to do much of the heavy lifting in ways teachers around the globe strive for within every lesson.
Some of the highest level of engagement in my classrooms have come when using Osmo. Take for example the first time I introduced my students to Osmo. I was teaching Kindergarten math at the time and intended to use Osmo Numbers games for kids as a whole group warm-up for 10-15 minutes. I set the iPad up to mirror the screen to my smartboard so students gathered on the carpet could easily see the action. One student at a time came to the iPad and interacted with tiles while the others watched. Only, they didn’t just watch. Many were raising hands to offer help or suggestions to classmates. Others offered words of encouragement and praise to their peers. I was completely blown away by the experience. I let the good times roll and my 10-15 minute warm up ended up being 30-45 minutes of my 90 min class. The real “ah ha” moment would come the following day. While working independently on a whiteboard a student produced multiple extended addition equations, not unlike those they had just seen the previous day. The connection to Osmo Numbers was undeniable.
Osmo had shown her, in one short session, how numbers can connect to form bigger numbers and how to document them in a way that I had not been able to. Previously we had only begun adding 2 numbers.
The engagement Osmo provides can allow for more than just progress in the game but also for a classroom as a whole. After the success of my warm-up with Osmo numbers I moved it into regular rotation in our Math Workshop. Students would rotate through centers each day and as they did I would pull students to work with as a small group on targeted lessons and reteaching based on their academic needs. Needless to say, for this system to work, engagement needs to be very high throughout the class. Because Osmo and other centers we used students in this class were able to demonstrate proficiency on all of their Kindergarten math CCSS not long after the end of 3rd quarter. We then used the majority of 4th quarter to work on First grade math CCSS. This simply would not have been possible without tools like Osmo that keep students wholly engaged with an activity that is equally educational in value.
Osmo Numbers is a great tool for supporting math curriculum, but Osmo also has the Osmo Math Wizard Series. The newest addition – Osmo Math Wizard and the Fantastic Food Truck is another way teachers can generate engagement in math practice. But even more important, it’s perfect for building that proficiency teachers are so desperately wanting for their students.
Written by Innovation/Media Specialist Matthew Cheek
Matthew has spent 6 years teaching Kindergarten in the Johnson Creek School District before becoming the Innovation/Media Specialist in 2018. He is a student-focused educator that is always finding ways to meet student needs at their academic readiness while holding learner engagement through choice and voice at the forefront! Being a huge tech fan he tries to bring as much tech into education as he can.