Every fall, with the beginning of school year, teachers and students take time to get organized. Teachers set up their classrooms, arrange their schedule, and gather needed materials. Students load up backpacks, make plans with friends, and begin new routines.
How do these seasonally ritualized organizational skills carry over to math? A very organized discipline, math involves skills such as sorting information based on categories and relationships, following mathematical progressions, retrieving facts, and solving word problems. As students move through elementary school, multi-step problems become the norm.
Creating a context for teaching organizational skills in math starts with the way your classroom is arranged. One of the many videos available on the Teaching Channel—a showcase of effective teaching practices—demonstrates how seating arrangements with work stations can improve organizational skills.
Digging down into the instructional process, evidence-based strategies for teaching organizational skills include providing explicit and systematic instruction, using models for problem solving, using graphic organizers to organize information, and using memory aids such as checklists, index cards, acronyms, and study planners.
With the expanding integration of tablets in elementary classrooms, teachers are looking for apps that can support the development of math skills, especially organizing.
Below is a curated list of free apps you can try out in your classroom.
PowerUp WHAT WORKS (www.powerupwhatworks.org) includes eight Math Instructional Strategy Guides: Organizing, Modeling, Thinking Aloud, Interacting with Peers, Math Language, Supporting Science, Understanding Problems, and Visual Representations. Each Guide provides many suggestions for teaching organizational strategies to students, including an introductory presentation on the strategy, a Lesson in Action, some Quick View Technology videos, and a review of the relevant research.