Inside the classroom: Math - New York Post
Inside the classroom: Math
Posted on 04/03/2016
Peter Ostrander and Glory Carrion-Gomes

Glory Carrion-Gomes and Peter Ostrander, 6th grade team teachers, American Dream School, Bronx

From the very beginning of 6th grade, we included our students in regular data analysis and goal setting. We shared our grade-wide data with all the students – including the fact that nearly 85% of the class was not yet on grade level for math. Our goal was to fill in the gaps in our students’ background knowledge, while simultaneously teaching the grade-level materials they would need to master for the state exams.

Before beginning each unit of study, we administer standards-based diagnostic assessments to help set goals for each student. At the end of each unit, we use colorful bar graphs to help students visualize their tremendous growth.

A safe learning environment makes students feel comfortable to ask for assistance. In our class, each student has a set of one green, yellow, and red laminated cards. During group and independent work, they use the cards to signal if they feel confident – or if they are stuck and in need of help. Mistakes create opportunities for learning.

Our classroom culture creates a healthy balance between rigor and fun. We keep things light and take “brain breaks” when we sense students getting restless. They respond beautifully when adults acknowledge that breaks are sometimes necessary, and this results in greater productivity. We regularly praise them for classroom successes of all kinds, from demonstrating excellent teamwork to achieving mastery on an assessment.

One memorable learning activity this year dealt with finding the least common multiple in a real-world context. We asked our students to line up to purchase “concert tickets,” while we played music and acted as promoters. We distributed symbolic “free album downloads” to every second person, “front row seats” to every fourth person, and “backstage passes” to every fifth person on the line. We then asked them to figure out which person on line would receive all three promotions, and to explain why. It was a fun and energetic lesson that our students still talk about, and more importantly, it helped them to understand the usefulness of the least common multiple.


Questions from 2015 test:

1) Arnold’s entire workout consisted of 10 minutes of warm-up exercises, 25 minutes of lifting weights, and 15 minutes on the treadmill. What was the ratio of the number of minutes he lifted weights to the total number of minutes of his entire workout?

A: 1 : 1
B: 1 : 2
C: 3 : 10
D: 5 : 8

2) Solve the equation below.

0.3r = 2.1

A: r = 0.7
B: r = 1.8
C: r = 7
D: r = 18

3) To convert a temperature from degrees Celsius to degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature in degrees Celsius is multiplied by 1.8, and then 32 is added to the product. Write an expression that can be used to convert a temperature from degrees Celsius, C, to degrees Fahrenheit, and then use that expression to convert 25 degrees Celsius to degrees Fahrenheit. Show your work.

Abstract: Post Staff Report. (2016). Passing the Common Core: 6th grade. New York: New York Post.