When They STILL Don't Get It

You're teaching a new math strategy and many of your students are finding success... but then there is that handful. The handful of kids that are continuing to struggle and just aren't picking it up like the rest. It happens in all classrooms whether it be the make a ten strategy for addition in 1st grade, comparing fractions in 3rd and 4th grade, multiplying two digit by two digit numbers in 4th or dividing decimals in 5th.

The problem is universal and, to some degree, the solution is universal as well. When a student
is struggling you need to think C-R-A.

 Take a look, for example, at this make a ten strategy found in many textbooks. The strategy is quite straight forward and requires that the students break up the 5 through the use of a number bond. For many students, this strategy is just fine and because they are flexible with numbers it will quickly turn into a mental strategy. However, if you are working with this type of strategy and you have a group of students who just aren't "getting it", take a step back and ask yourself if you have spent enough time working in concrete or representative methods.

 If I wanted to teach the above make a ten strategy with concrete materials, I might get out blocks and have the students build towers out of the numbers they are adding together and then place these blocks into a double ten frame. The difference between this concrete strategy and the above abstract strategy is that students can physically break apart the tower of 5 and can easily see how a ten is made with the other part of the 5 left over. Students don't need to fluently know their decompositions of numbers to ten to practice the strategy when you use concrete materials. You don't want to be bogged down in these concrete strategies. When your students have mastered this strategy MOVE THEM ON. In fact, link the concrete strategy to a representation (shown below) and/or the abstract form of the strategy so that they can easily transition to more efficient methods.

Once your students are proficient using concrete materials, transition them over to a drawing or representative model. You can see how the model to the left is very similar to the concrete model above, however, the students don't have the benefit of physically breaking the 5 apart and seeing how it makes a complete ten. The difference is subtle as an adult but powerful for your students.

So that's it. No more pulling your hair out, no more frustrated students. If they are not "getting it" just take a step back and think C-R-A. Meet your students where they are and you will be so pleased with the results! 

Please send me the Fraction C-R-A Cheat Sheet!

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