Saturday, February 2, 2013

Solving Number Stories

As part of our new system of teacher evaluation, teachers in my district were asked to create a SMART goal based on "student achievement."  This is quite new and daunting for a lot of reasons. We all know that the effective teacher has high expectations for ALL his or her students.  Conversely, we also know that there are many barriers that we as educators must overcome to get all learners to meet our high expectations.  Typical hurdles include different cognitive abilities, different levels of parental involvement, different levels of English-speaking, different levels of support staff and materials at hand and different socio-economical statuses.   These are just a sampling of what we as teachers encounter daily.

Since literacy is definitely "my thing," I chose to focus my student-achievement goal on mathematics--solving number stories-- in particular.  I used data from my previous first graders' end-of-the-year mathematics assessment results which indicated to me that the number of my students that were able to solve number stories had room for improvement.

From there, I needed to make a principal-approved action plan to boost student achievement.  My plan roughy included the following steps.

     1.  Create Number Story Journals:  I made one out of a small blue exam book for each of my students.  In this book, I glued our strategies for solving number stories visual that had been previously taught.

     2.  Develop a Rubric:  I devised a rubric to measure each of my first grader's responses to solving a number story.  Consulting our state's open response rubrics, I created my original, student friendly version.

     3.  Get Baseline Data: I glued a number story in the journals and let my students answer the first story problem "cold turkey."

     4.  Introduce Rubric:  I graded the first responses according to a scale of 1-4, and went over my rubric that had been glued into their journal.  I went over the scores and the rubric.

     5.  Introduce Checklist:  My students were concerned about having so much to remember to "get a 4."  They were pleased when I showed them my checklist to help them come up with the best solution.

     6.  Get Round 2 Data:  I glued in a second number story and students solved it using all three visuals (the rubric, the checklist and the solving number story strategies reminder).

     7.  Score Round 2 Responses:  I scored and noted differences in my students' responses.

     8.  Repeat:  Continue to showcase exemplars of high quality responses using my ENO Board and document camera and keep track of my data for the remainder of the year.  In addition, it will be necessary to make some small groups of students who need further support and interventions with solving number stories successfully.

So far, my results have been quite impressive!  My last record shows that 51% of my first graders had their score (1-4) increase since the baseline assessment.  How's that for results?  Check out these before the checklist and rubric and after the checklist and rubric pics.
Notice the brief, limited responses and poor record of thinking.

Notice the elaborated, detailed responses and use of multiple thinking strategies.

Grab all three Solving Number Stories visuals by clicking here.  Overall, it's pretty neat that I was able to set this goal, specifically fine-tune my teaching based on a need and see very quick results.  I'm happy, and my young mathematicians are happy!  I'd love to hear any goals you have created based on student achievement too.


  1. This looks great! I have been wanting to implement math journals for a while now, this gives me some ideas of where to start! Thanks so much!
    Second Grade is Out of This World!

  2. You are welcome. Good luck. Thanks for commenting.

  3. Hi! Thanks for stopping by my blog and following me! I love your visuals for solving number stories! I am going to go check those out! We do math journals and they look like your before pictures!

  4. Ha, that's funny Kim. I was pretty surprised with how effective a little fine tuning in my instruction was in such a short amount of time. Good luck with your math journals.


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