I think the biggest struggle of teaching Math in the PYP curriculum is veering away from the traditional classroom set up of being teacher-centered and worksheet-heavy. In our 6 years as a PYP school, innovating and adapting to a more student-centered practice has been a struggle but quite a challenge.
For the theme on HOW WE EXPRESS OURSELVES, although the unit on fractions does not directly connect with the central idea “Self-expressions celebrate individuality and bridge human differences”, we focused on the conceptual idea “Fractions may be expressed in different ways to show equivalence.”
The unit opened with the word FRACTION written on the board. The students created a mind map by writing words or ideas that they know about fractions. Remember! No looking at your notes. After all ideas have been exhausted, the students will take 2-3 ideas from the mind map and write a meaningful sentence about fractions. They may write as much as three sentences using an assortment of ideas.
In groups, they share their sentences and pick two that they will present as a group. Naturally, tweaking and combining sentences is allowed. On strips of paper, they will write down their sentences and post them on the board. During a gallery walk, students may write down questions, corrections and additional information based on each sentence.
I use this exercise as a way of assessing prior knowledge as well as a spring board to teaching fractions.
Since some concepts are already clear with the students, only a brief review is necessary.
Simplifying fractions, getting a higher term, changing improper fractions to mixed numbers and vice versa, changing dissimilar fractions to similar fractions are all chunked under the concept of renaming fractions. Through a gradual unfolding of the different ways of renaming fractions, students develop an understanding that fractions may be written differently but they still represent the same thing. Going further, this understanding of equivalence has helped students work better with the four basic operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.
5th grade teacher and PYP Coordinator
Mentari Intercultural School Jakarta