Resources and Tools for Elementary Math Specialists and Teachers
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Building Classroom Culture

Why is building classroom culture important?

The Common Core State Standards for Mathematics set an expectation that students will begin to develop expertise with the eight Mathematical Practices early in elementary school. A safe and supportive classroom environment will allow students to acquire these practice skills while learning mathematical concepts. This collection includes several videos demonstrating techniques teachers can use to build a supportive classroom culture as well as materials and suggestions that support the development of a community of learners.

Videos showing classroom culture

You will watch third grade teacher Jennifer Saul as she demonstrates the routines she uses to engage and support her students as they take time to think, share ideas with others, explain and justify their solutions, and perform mental tasks. Observe the students as they use hand signals to indicate when they’re thinking and when they’re ready to answer. Another short video introduces Dale Eilers, who describes her quick and easy “fist to five” method for gathering feedback.

You’ll also view Chris Opitz and his fifth grade class as they work together to build a community of learners who listen, question, and respect one another while engaging in interesting mathematical problems. Mr. Opitz shares the materials he uses to help students develop the interpersonal skills they need in order to participate fully in their mathematics classes. You’ll be able to choose and use resources that meet the needs of your own students.

Strategies for the classroom

When students feel comfortable about taking their time and trying alternate paths to find solutions, they will develop habits that contribute to their future success in mathematics. This collection includes resources describing cooperative learning strategies and management strategies that can be used to support the development of the mathematical practices. Three blog entries describe a simple math tool kit that you can provide for each student to use as needed.

Creating a classroom climate in which children collaborate and show respect for contributions made by other students takes time and effort. Working with children to help them attain the social and emotional skills necessary for engaging in mathematical tasks and interacting with other students as they work is essential in all classrooms, and teachers find that this is time well spent in terms of future success. The resources presented in this collection provide materials and suggestions for building a classroom culture in which all students have these opportunities.

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