Friday, September 28, 2012 was a Professional Day for teachers in our county.  I presented a professional development session about the, “Common Core Math Shifts” teachers can expect as we approach the full implementation of the standards in 2014.  With regards to mathematics instruction, there are 3 primary shifts for mathematics which will focus on 1. rigor in conceptual understanding, procedural skill, fluency,  and application 2. coherence across grade levels and topics and 3. greater focus on fewer concepts. After providing a detailed explanation of these shifts, we viewed several instructional videos by The Hunt Institute and, using discussion prompts, shared with our colleagues how teachers will be able to reconcile future expectations of teaching and learning with the Common Core standards.

(Click the following link to listen to a brief podcast highlighting the main tenants of my presentation.)

Ms. Daniel leading a professional development seminar about the upcoming Math Shifts in Common Core.

During the ‘work session’ of the presentation I provided teachers with an opportunity to experience how the Common Core shifts for Mathematics may “look” and “feel” like for students by having teachers engage in an inquiry-based problem solving mini-project in which they had to demonstrate and support their reasoning with the use of manipulatives, conceptual understanding and application. Click on the following podcasts to listen to teacher insights and “ah-ha” moment reactions to this activity:

Ms. G (Teacher)

Ms. Menck (First Grade Math Teacher)

Ms. Johnson (Second Grade Math Teacher)


During second part of the professional development seminar, I facilitated teachers through the process of reviewing our current curriculum in order to design coherent progressions from first grade to fifth grade and identify instructional methods we could implement within the next 30 days to begin addressing the upcoming mathematics shifts with our current instructional program.  The session was extremely productive, and provided the groundwork for future collaborative planning sessions.

Ms. Daniel facilitating a curriculum and lesson planning discussion.



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This school year marks the first official “National Principals Month” in which federal education officials are provided with the opportunity to shadow school leaders throughout the country. Founded in 2000 by a team of social entrepreneurs, New Leaders™ is a national nonprofit that develops transformational school leaders and designs effective leadership policies and practices for school systems across the country. On Wednesday, October 10 nine principals and  New Leaders resident principals from several regional elementary and middle schools selected our classroom to observe and evaluate specific instructional strategies and indicators such as classroom environment, real-world application of mathematical content, use of manipulatives, opportunities for student discussion, use of technology for explanation and insight, higher level thinking questioning and response, and a host of other “look fors”.   The principals visited for approximately 40 minutes of instructional time and completed a 20 minute classroom gallery walk-through in which they observed, discussed, and photographed classroom artifacts (such as the Data Wall, Vocabulary Wall, Classroom Newsletter, Standards Based Bulletin Boards, Student Work, Anchor Charts, Student Portfolios, Small Group Centers, Teacher FFT lesson plans, etc) and student work.

Nine principals/resident principals from regional schools observed our Math Masters hard at work on October 10, 2012. Several principals stand by our Center 2 Learning Station.


The New Leaders Principal and Resident Principals shared the following commendations:

” …students were engaged and excited to explore the content!” – resident principal

” The use of technology allowed students to have a real-world application and appreciation of geometry!” -principal

” ..students are at the center of the teaching/ learning process!” – vice principal

I wanted to thank all of my students, fellow colleagues, and parents for your amazing support throughout this school year. These comments are not mine alone, but for ALL of us to appreciate because success is built by team effort! I am so fortunate to have the partnerships, support, and enthusiasm for learning shared by those at our great elementary school! These principals will join other principal and resident principals from across the state and meet with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan for a debrief discussion to reflect on their experiences from their observations and meeting which will hopefully impact educational policy reform initiatives.


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Today a financial planner and teller from Capital One Bank visited our classroom to help us learn about how to make wise choices about earning, saving, spending, and investing money. Their visit helped to solidify concepts students had been learning about in our recent unit on counting and comparing mixed currency (bills and coins) as well as learning about financial tools like budgeting, the stock market and financial careers. The Capital One representatives guided students through the process of creating a savings, investment and spending plan as well as answered student questions related to how to generate income, and how to save for longterm goals such as college. At the closure of their visit Capital One each student with a reusable shopping tote stuffed with informative goodies and reading materials! Thank you, Capital One, for providing us with such an engaging and important presentation about how to use the skills we are learning this year to influence to achieve our financial goals!

Here are some pictures and a brief video clip from our time with Capital One!

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 Hello Parents!

Many students today are avid users of technology which provides an excellent opportunity for teachers to connect learning experiences in a relevant and meaningful way. This month your student will begin using a learning management system called, “Moodle” which has been used by Prince George’s County School District for over 3 years to deliver supplemental, differentiated and constructivist virtual learning!

As your child’s teacher, I am excited to use Moodle because it allows me to create individualized and group learning programs that will be completed primarily during class, but can also be accessed at home for students to complete homework or enrichment assignments. Moodle allows me to continue to implement the third grade curriculum but in a way that is different from traditional classroom approaches. The twenty-first century classroom offers educational experiences and opportunities unparalleled to any other time in history and I am excited to bring innovative, research-based, high-quality instruction to our students!

Through the Moodle online course, your student and I will be able to experience collaborative online interaction where ideas can be shared and a consensus to understanding can be constructed in online activities, discussions, and interactions. Students will complete Moodle assignments during whole class and small group rotations for a minimum of 45 minutes per week. Stay tuned for additional information and personalized student access codes. Thank you for partnering with me in providing a 21st-century learning experience for your student!

Warm Regards,

Ms. Daniel

The following video provides a brief overview of the Moodle Program. Take a look:

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Hello Parents!

Your student will complete a county wide mathematics assessment next Tuesday and Wednesday, October 23-24 which will be used to indicate their proficiency level with grade level objectives taught during the first quarter. Topics include: comparing whole numbers, describing features of polygons, place value, adding and subtracting mixed currency, and skip counting. For a list of complete objectives please click on the blog post titled, ” A Look Ahead: Quarter 1″ (posted August 28). Students will score score in one of three categories: basic, proficient, or advanced.  A “Basic” score (0-49 %) indicates the student performed below grade level.  Basic scores are non-passing. A “Proficient” score (50-69%) indicates the student has grade level mastery of the objectives and met the required passing score of a 50% or higher. An “Advanced” score (70-100% indicates the student exceeded grade level requirements and shows strong content mastery of the assessed objectives.  Scores will be sent home with students no later than November 2, 2012.

You can help your child prepare for the F.A.S.T 1 assessment by ensuring that they are well rested the nights before the exam. Additionally, make sure they have a hearty breaskfast either (either at home or at school). Please use the review sheets I sent home as a way to practice the types of questions and skills the F.A.S.T assessment will cover.  All of my third grade have worked extremly hard this quarter and I am anticipating all students will earn either “proficient” or “advanced” scores!

Warm Regards,

Ms. Daniel

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A dominant belief about learning mathematics today is constructivism, the idea that students learn by actively building knowledge through dialoguing and reflecting on concepts. The Common Core mathematics curriculum aligns with this approach in that it places an increased emphasis on problem solving and contextualized learning which will require students to model with mathematics, construct arguments to support and explain their reasoning and those of others, and reason inductively about data. As mathematics tasks become increasingly contextualized,the ability for students to be able to communicate effectively will also increase. Additionally, as standardized testing transitions a relatively passive task of bubbling in rows of multiple choice questions, to responding to opened ended questions which require written responses students will need to develop proficiency in using problem solving strategies. These changes will most likely impact English Language Learner and Students with Disabilities who may need special attention to allow them to participate fully in classroom discussion.

Educational research has repeatedly confirmed that  effective mathematics teaching  uses an investigative approach to teach content. To facilitate an inquiry/investigative approach in my classroom I routinely utilize students’ interests, current events, or create entertaining problem-based scenarios in which students utilize their background knowledge or our common shared instructional experiences to solve problems which utilize several or more Common Core math practices. This year I have consistently utilized  inquiry, problem solving based contexts to instruct, reteach, and assess students and I have witnessed the numerous benefits  this approach has for all students, and particularly English language learners and students with disabilities. Provided with proper instructional supports, this approach allows for differentiation, promotes vocabulary and comprehension language support, increases engagement, provides a more sophisticated means of analyzing student strengths and weaknesses.

As a way to use investigative problem solving and integrate previously taught concepts in preparation for a Benchmark assessment, I recorded a scripted podcast in which I created a conversation between myself and an salesman who owned a Wedding Rentals company. I selected this scenario as a way to engage student interest because may students had expressed interest about my upcoming nuptials (which was a topic I disclosed in our beginning of the school year, “All about Me” activity). Throughout the prerecorded telephone call (which students were unassumingly that it was scripted!) I posed tiered levels of problems which integrated previously taught skills (which included comparing whole numbers, adding and subtracting 4 digit numbers with regrouping, analyzing features of polygons, and

The following video highlights how one of my students was able to use Common Core Practice #2 (Reason Abstractly and Quantitatively) and Practice 4 (Model with Mathematics) to help him determine his answer.

This video clearly demonstrates this student has a sophisticated understanding of skip counting, place value, and mixed currency. For his particular problem solving strategy he decided not to use paper and pencil, but rather manipulatives, which supports how manipulatives are beneficial at all stages of the learning process and should not regarded as tools that might only assist sub-proficiency students.

This video identified how one of my students was able to use Common Core Practice #4 (Model with Mathematics), Practice # 5 (Use appropriate tools strategically) and Practice #2 (Reason abstractly and quantitatively) to determine an answer to an open ended problem.

This video shows how this student was able to decontextualize polygons by representing the shape a picture, “H cirlcled” and the number 6 (representing the number of sides a hexagon has). The student has clear mastery of counting on,repeated addition inequalities (in terms of greater than) and counting on. 

This video demonstrates how using small groups promotes both oral and written communication and language development, allows for immediate feedback from peers and teachers and  demonstrates Common Core Practice # 3 (Construct Viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others

This video shows how students can find more than one solution plan for solving a problem. Sharing their problem solving strategy created flexible thinking, and allows for students and the teacher to validate different approaches to mathematics. 


Student Benefits from Problem Solving/ Investigative Approaches:

1. During whole group and small group learning, problem solving questions provides peer communication opportunities to develop language skills and foster understanding of a topic

2. Provides opportunities for students to hear math language and to speak and write mathematically

3. Allows students to clarify their understanding by asking questions and make mistakes in a safe learning setting

4. Allows opportunities for students to receive immediate feedback on their thinking.

5. Promotes learner autonomy as students see themselves capable of applying different strategies to attack a problem.

Teacher Benefits from Problem Solving/Investigative Approaches:

1. Allows teachers to “see” students thinking and identify the learning style of students based on trends the teacher observes from watching students use various problem solving strategies

2. Allows teachers to informally assess student understanding of concepts and identify where comprehension “breaks down”.

3. Allows teacher to reteach using kid-friendly terms and concepts observed from other students who were successful with the task.

4. Allows the teacher to analyze a learners level of skill/content/analysis  sophistication based on problem solving observations.

I encourage all teachers to use this approach to mathematics instruction whenever possible. Stay tuned for additional articles related to this topic!

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These beautiful ladies are displaying traditional clothing from El Salvador! Que Bonita!


This Friday our students celebrated the conclusion of Hispanic Heritage Month by wearing traditional clothes from their country. Many countries were represented, including, but not limited to Venezuela, El Salvador, Chile, Ecuador, Mexico and Dominican Republic. In our classroom alone, over 15 different countries spanning across 6 continents are represented! Understanding and appreciating cultural diversity provides opportunities for each student to feel validated and celebrated as a unique and special individual within a larger, global society in which individuals are not only unique in terms of ethnicity and culture, but interests, motivation, learning styles, and talents. Additionally, children need to develop tolerance and respect for the differences of others.

Students display traditional clothing from their country.


As apart of a month long celebration and inquiry lesson on influential Hispanic-Americans, my students  also participated in round-table discussion panels in which group members shared their ideas through a series of teacher-developed self-reflection questions about finding commonality  (i.e., between food, celebrations, family roles, natural resources) where they seems to be only differences between various cultures. As the teacher, I orchestrate a powerful role in establishing a tone of respect for diversity in the classroom. Listed below are my most helpful considerations I have observed in ensuring that I establish a classroom community that celebrates diversity and ensure equality and mutual fairness is accessible for all students regardless of race, creed, learner capacity or other dispositions:

  • Address all of the students in the same manner. It is vital to show the same respect and consideration to each student.
  • Listen attentively to all of the students in the class. Value the opinions and ideas of each child.
  • Encourage all of the students to participate in group discussions and activities.
  • Recognize the individuality of students and strive to address their different needs and abilities.
  • Maintain the same expectations and confidence in all of the students.
  • Oversee student interactions in an effort to be sure that students treat each other with respect. It is crucial to intervene when a lack of tolerance is displayed.



Biles, Barbara, “Activities that Promote Racial and Cultural Awareness”, PBS Website (accessed April 25, 2010).

National Association for the Education of Young Children Website, Teaching Young Children to Resist Bias (accessed April 25, 2010).

Davis, Barbara Gross, “Diversity and Complexity in the Classroom, Considerations of Race Ethnicity, and Gender”, Tools for Teaching, 1999.

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This week students are investigating how whole numbers name and help describe polygons. By defining, polygons are shapes that have 3 or more sides made of lines that do not intersect or curve. Polygons are named by the number of sides, angles, and vertices that form the shape. In third grade, your student will study these features in order to lay a geometry foundation to assist them with future topics related to calculating the area and perimeter of 2-and 3 dimensional shapes.

As for this week, I wanted to familiarize students with the specific vocabulary term used to identify each polygon and have student recognize that these shapes are all around us in everyday life.Please refer to the polygon chart below. This is not an exhaustive list, but one that outlines the polygons your third grade will need to recognize.









Here are some polygons I found in my neighborhood. Have you seen polygon shapes in your community?

Polygons featured: square and octagon


Polygon featured: Scalene and Isoceles Triangles, Rectangles, and Parallel Lines


This stop sign intersection features 2 obtuse angles and 2 acute angles. Can you spot them?


The cable wires above the stop sign are excellent examples of parallel lines. Parallel lines are lines that lie in the same shape, with the same distance apart over their entire length.


For Instructional Videos please view the following:



To download or print additional practice worksheets, please refer to the following websites:

To access polygon games (which feature the websites students use during class) please refer to the following websites:


Parent’s Corner: Strategies for Teaching this concept at home!

How Can I Make Polygons Easy for My 3rd Grader?

Start with the Basics

Eight basic kinds of polygons are commonly taught in 3rd grade, from the triangle with three sides to the decagon with ten sides. If you’re supplementing your child’s math lessons with at-home practice, there is a variety of approaches you can use to teach your child the basics and make learning polygons fun.

Books about Polygons

You can find books that introduce polygons in a fun way. Look at the library or your local bookstore for the following titles.

  • If You Were a Polygonby Marcie Aboff
  • Polygonsby David L. Stienecker
  • Polygons by Marina Cohen, from the My Path to Mathseries
  • The Great Polygon Caper by Karen Ferrell

Toys and Tools for Making Polygons

Children love to make shapes. You can start by giving your child some paper and markers to draw, color and decorate different types of polygons. Using small marshmallows and toothpicks is a fun and tasty way to make them. Tinker Toys and Play-Doh are other useful tools.

Games that Teach Polygons

Games are a great way to help your child identify different types of polygons. You can search online for free games that focus on polygons, or use some of the activities below.

  1. Cut out some polygon shapes and place them on a tray. Let your child study the shapes. Cover the tray, and remove one shape, keeping it hidden. Ask her to tell you which shape you removed.
  2. Arrange a few large cut-out polygons on a table. Make smaller polygons that are identical to the large ones, and place them in a container. Have your child choose a shape from the container, name it and place it on the matching shape on the table.
  3. Cut out large cardboard polygons. Blindfold your child. Give her one of the polygons and ask her to name it by feel.

Move on to Perimeters

You can demonstrate how to measure perimeters once your child can identify different types of polygons. A perimeter is the total distance around a shape.

Take a walk with your child around the perimeter of your yard. Ask him if he can figure out how far you walked. The easiest way is to measure each side and add them together. Walk the perimeter again, measuring each side and adding them as you go.

Once you have determined the measurements of the entire perimeter, walk around again. As you walk each side, review how many feet you measured for that side and how many feet you’ve walked in total so far. When you get to the last side, ask your child how many feet you have left to walk. Work it out together, and finish the walk






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Learning about money is one of the most important skills third graders can master. This week students will use their knowledge of comparing whole numbers, and adding and subtract 3 and 4 digit numbers to help them find the value of mixed currency (coins and bills), compute the total cost of items and identify change. As a means of facilitating students understanding and anchoring their current background knowledge about the various functions of money, I redesigned our classroom into a “SuperCenter” Store, complete with a mini-economy, in which students would perform various jobs within the community (i.e., cashier, manager), plan a household budget, and participate in a book club emphasizing various aspects of financial literacy.  Please refer to the blog post, “Unit 1 Integrated Common Core Project” for further details about this project.

As a parent, I wanted to empower you with ways practice of this skill may be easily integrated into everyday life. Continue reading to identify ways and resources to use when teaching your third grader about money.


How to Teach Your 3rd Grader about Money


If your child is struggling to remember what each coin is worth, a hands-on activity can make review fun. Write monetary amounts, such as five cents, ten cents and 25¢, on index cards. Then, using real coins, have your child match the coin with the correct amount. For a challenge, write amounts like 63¢ on the index cards and have your child count the correct amount using real coins.

Real-world Context

Students may not realize how important these math skills are until they have money of their own. The next time you’re at the toy store, give your child $10.00 and say that he or she may buy anything as long as it is worth $10.00 or less. This activity will require your child to add the prices of the items he or she wants and subtract that amount from $10.00.

Word Problems


Help your child review money and multiplication at the same time by incorporating this operation into word problems. Remember that most 3rd graders will not be prepared to multiply with decimals yet, so limit the monetary amounts to whole numbers. Here’s an example:

Bananas are on sale for $1.00 each. If Tim wants to buy five bananas, how much money will he spend?

To solve this problem, your child will have to multiply the cost of the banana ($1.00) by five (5 x 1 = 5). So, Tim will spend $5.00.

To increase your child’s motivation to learn this skill, make it apply to his or her life. If you give your child an allowance, have him or her calculate how much money he or she will have if the allowance is saved for ten weeks. For example, if the allowance is $2.00 per week, your child would have $20 after ten weeks (2 x 10 = 20).

Click on the following links to access additional resources to review counting, adding, and subtracting mixed currency at home!


For downloadable worksheets click here:


For mixed currency games, click here:  (coins only)


For instructional videos, click here:




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Anchor Chart: an instructional tool that aides students in recalling procedures and expectations.

One of my favorite classroom artifacts are Anchor Charts! I love anchor charts more than decorative bulletin-board borders, creative window-clings, area rugs, or (gasp) organizational containers and crates! Throughout my years as an educator, anchor charts have proven to be the most accessible collection of my students’ learning; they literally ‘hold’ their thinking and are displayed on the  walls, windows, and doors of our classroom for students to refer to and use as a reference throughout an instructional day and in the subsequent days, weeks and months.

Take a look at the following gallery of Anchor Charts I’ve used in my classroom:























To maximize outcomes with Anchor Charts it is helpful to keep the following in mind:

1. Anchor Charts should be made with students and update to reflect new learning. If possible, avoid making charts ahead of time; you want students to take ownership of the idea. Although the basic structure may be provided, the majority of the content should represent student thinking.

2. Teachers may choose to remove or “retire” anchor charts to a stored location when the charts are no longer needed.

3. Anchor Charts should be posted where they are visually accessible to students.

Keep in mind that Anchor Charts are easily integrated across all content areas. It’s so easy to get “anchored away”! Happy Charting!

Ms. Daniel

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