Tag: Problem Solving

Nobody Said It Was Going To Be Easy


It’s the start of October, which means that last month was the hardest month of the teaching year. In September, is when I lay out the expectations, the groundwork and the flow for the learning in our classroom. With this comes the hardest and most frustrating aspect; getting the students acquainted with technology as a learning tool.

I have heard the gripes from fellow teachers and I myself used to say it too ” They don’t know how to log in! They won’t ever remember log-ins! How can I manage 25+ kids with different devices and access?” etc. The key I finally discovered was that it wasn’t hard for the kids….it was hard for ME. I switched my mindset around and started to focus on how to make it a smoother transition for all of us because I have seen first hand the powerful learning that can happen when a student is using a device as a tool to empower, create and explain their learning. It becomes second-hand nature to have that device ready to go when it’s needed.

I have been asked many times how I manage to get the kids ready to go so quickly and my advice is “Roll up your sleeves, and dive in.” It’s messy, it can be frustrating, it can drive you to insanity, but at the heart of it all you know that it is what is best for them and their future.

Here are a few tips I have experienced first hand that may help:

Use the expertise in the room

You are not the only expert in the room, and I am willing to bet that there are a few students in your class who have done this before or are quick and savvy learners. Put them to work helping their peers. I always tell my students “I am only but one Miss Ariss”, however there are some of you in here who can help me and your friends so we can learn this quickly. If you stand and deliver and expect every student to follow your exact move as you click on your computer…..you will be in for a world of mental anguish. I liken this to going to a PD session and the presenter hasn’t gaged the level of expertise in the room and treats us as if we are all beginners. I’ll be honest, if its something I know already, then I’ve started to tune them out. Our students are no different. You will have kids who know how to log in, who know how to make the @ symbol, and who know how to troubleshoot. Honour their expertise and build a collaborative, caring classroom community at the same time.

Set High Expectations

I know some teachers will print out their student’s emails or login info and passwords and give to them. I find that level of scaffolding to be great as a start….but at some point they will have to rely on themselves. With the exception of the students who I know need this scaffold, I post their log in info on the board and give them the responsibility of logging themselves in. At some point, after numerous trials and errors (with support by me,) they get it. Is it easy for them to memorize and copy their log in info, password and websites? Not a single bit, but they are learning perseverance, problem solving and building their confidence in doing this hard thing on their own. There will be tears, there will be stress, there will be anxiety…but there will also be triumph and pride.

Keep Everything In One Place

Let’s be honest…as an adult I can barely keep track of all of the websites, passwords, logins etc and I don’t expect my students to do so either. I start off small with logging into the computer system with their information and we practice going to our classroom blog. This in itself is a feat because learning that the Google search bar is not the same as the url bar when typing in a website address is just one big lesson. I keep all of the important links that they will need – Google Drive, Classroom, Creative Commons, School website, Government tests, et.- all on the blog for quick and easy access until we are at a stage where they are comfortable and strong enough in their technology use to type in other sites.

So yes, it might be easier to just hit print on the photocopier and hand each student a neat little packet without the hassle of the above, but is it what is best for them or for us? Are we living in a neat printed packet world or is our world digital, messy and requires us to push buttons and try new things?

Integrating technology in the classroom is not easy and it’s not meant for all tasks, but no one ever said anything about teaching being easy. We all just know that it’s worth it.


Not Another Game Of Bingo!


We complete a mini-problem every week focused on multiple strands of the mathematics curriculum as well as areas of student need for growth.

As we worked on our 2X2, 2X3 and even 3X3 multiplication learning, we were also moving towards division and I knew that a stronger understanding and focus on their multiplication facts was needed. I sought out ways to ensure their learning was meaningful, in-depth and not just rote memorization as they will need to have a strong understanding of multiplication in order to understand division.

My colleague, Jessie Krefting, forwarded me this problem called Multipingo. At first glance, one would think oh great, the students will roll the dice and play bingo, but that is not a way to grasp deep understanding of mathematics. While playing games is often a great way to engage students, the games need to be meaningful and allow them to think about what, why and how the things they are doing apply to their understandings. I decided to modify the problem to fit my student’s needs. I wanted my students to think, process and question.

What I also enjoyed about this was that it challenged them in the Statistics and Probability strand of our mathematics curriculum as well as problem solving and multiplication.

The following problem focused on:

  • Developing number sense
  • Understanding, recalling and applying multiplication facts to 9 × 9.
  • Describing the likelihood of a single outcome occurring, using words such as: impossible, possible, certain

What I watched happening in our classroom that day was incredible. The students were working in small groups and each provided with a blank 5X5 grid. Each group was also given two 9 sided dice. The first, and most important, task was that they choose a strategy to fill their grid with any products they thought would come up most when rolling dice and multiplying.

  • Some started inputting random numbers – 17, 23, 47, to which I posed the question ” What two numbers will you need to roll in order to reach this product?” The looks on their faces when they realized that no two numbers could ever multiply to reach these products was when the lightbulb moments began to occur. They then started to focus on their facts for possible products.
  • Some inputted products for the facts they knew which showed me which ones they were comfortable with. When I saw this, I asked them to input products they are not sure of. The goal was for them to expand beyond the basics to the more complex numbers.
  • Others began to get strategic. They were only inputting products to which multiple numbers rolled could bring about the same result. For example: 24 which is a result of 3×8 and 4×6 or 18 which is a result of 9×2 or 6×3 which increased their odds. This process required a strong knowledge and understanding of factors and probability.

They all were so heavily engaged in trying to fill in their grid with the best possible outcomes and working on factors, products, facts and probability that I couldn’t stop them, nor did I want to! They loved this challenge so much that the lesson extended into 3.5 periods that day with everyone fully engaged and learning.

They were also keeping track of which numbers rolled the most, which factors were more prevalent and why and what facts were correct on a separate google doc as they “played bingo”. Once their first round was completed, they then had to create another grid based on the information gathered from the first. Their task was then to change their first strategy using the new information in order to create a grid even more conducive to multiplication and probability. This required a deeper processing of information and statistics to which all then began to rethink their original ideas.

Upon completion, each student posted a reflection on their blog based on our problem of the week criteria.

Here are a few examples:

Ashley – Multipingo POW- Reflection 

Ian – POW Reflection – Multipingo

Kylie – POW Multiplication Reflection

I was very proud to see their growth especially as these concepts are some of our biggest challenges this year. They have come so far from just plugging in numbers and answers to actually breaking them apart, playing with them and understanding the relationships between them. This is an area that I hope to continue to grow and foster as we build a love of mathematics.


Classroom Learning – November 24 – November 28, 2015

November has flown by in our room and we are looking forward to bringing together all of the incredible projects and learning we have been doing this term.

The following is an update on the activities happening in LC5B!

Language Arts

We have started a group read- aloud on the book “Out Of My Mind“. Its an incredibly powerful story of an 11 year old girl diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy and the social and academic challenges she faces. The students have made some deep connections with the main character and are learning how to express empathy and understanding. I am reading this book to them and together we are discussing our thoughts and feelings. The students have also started to blog their own questions and understandings.

We are continuing with our daily reading and ensuring every student has access to reading materials reflective of their interests and ability. Please do let me know if students are not bringing any material home for additional reading time when possible.


We are shifting our main focus to multiplication now, however place value and estimation will still be a continued focus year-round to ensure understanding. The students are also meeting in three smaller groups for two periods a week with Mrs. Krefting’s class to work on combined skills and we continue with our problem of the week every Friday.

This week’s problem was called Grasshopper Jump Fest and I was so proud to see everyone just dive into solving it in their own ways. Students have now built the confidence to attempt problems without fear or hesitation from the work we began at the start of the year. We are working now on how to explain our thinking and how we are actually solving problems. This involves a strong understanding of one’s own strategies and how and why they applied those.

We all have our own strategy for solving the problem!
We all have our own strategy for solving the problem!
Students showed a lot of pride in their demonstrating their understandings.
Students showed a lot of pride in  demonstrating their understandings.
Focused and enjoying the level of difficulty of the problem!
Focused and enjoying the level of difficulty of the problem!
Chose to use Google Draw to work through her problem!
Chose to use Google Draw to work through her problem!

A few of the students were so proud of their process and in demonstrating their understandings that they asked me to video them solving the problem. As you can see below, some succeeded and the ones that didn’t during this taped version, continued on despite that fact and then refined their process with the feedback from myself and their peers. At the end of our lesson, they had all achieved success and began their reflection blogs.


We are wrapping up our units on Electricity and Magnetism. The students are working on their final projects which is to build a mechanism that features a working circuit and an element of magnetism. They have all done their research and will begin to plan their experiments this week. Our next unit is weather which will be a year-long focus as weather is happening every day around us. We have started watching and interpreting the weather radars on the weather network as well as tracking weather systems heading our way and globally. The students were fascinated by the extreme snow conditions in Buffalo, New York last week and began to question how being surrounded by lakes causes a Lake Effect. They also started to make connections between that and our location in Alberta versus British Columbia.

Social Studies

The students are now working on putting together their presentations with the information collected from you about their histories and heritage. They refined their questions and understandings last week and started exploring different presentation options. They were provided with a few technology tools as well as poster and paper options and were asked to choose which style worked best for them to represent their families’ story.


We love art in LC5B! Its never an easy task but it allows for students to demonstrate their own creativity. We worked on the use of chalk pastels and the aspect of defining space. Students are often asked to fill in every piece of a project and not to leave any white spaces, however with our chalk pastel pieces, that white space helps to define texture. Students were pushed and directed to actually colour outside of the lines and to make their images rough and not refined.

These are their scruffy Woozles:

Taking ownership and hanging their art pieces!
Taking ownership and hanging their art pieces!
Working together to display their work!
Working together to display their work!
Nadine's combination of colour and texture wowed us all!
Nadine’s combination of colour and texture wowed us all!

Really looking forward to this week!

Miss D. Ariss 


Classroom Learning – October 6 – October 9, 2014

Here is a quick review of the week that passed and what to expect for this upcoming week!


We are continuing to work on problem solving and we started the week with this visual map of a Ghost in the Mansion. I posted the visual on the SmartBoard and students immediately tried to figure out how to manoeuvre from one area to another while also discussing how and why they would choose each route.

Working in groups to find strategies to move through the mansion.
Working in groups to find strategies to move through the mansion.

As students worked together to find the best routes, I decided to make it trickier. I wanted them to apply their thinking beyond the problem written on a piece of paper. I told them I was providing each group with a roll of tape and wanted to see if they could re-create the map on a larger scale and then manoeuvre themselves through it.

Now this brought up many more problems for them beyond the mathematical application as they needed to work together effectively to produce a common group outcome. We decided to move out into our pod and use the carpet space provided.

Starting to figure out how to apply skills on a larger scale.
Getting past the struggles to create their models.

Working in a group proved to be a huge challenge for most as each had their own idea and vision for how their models would look. Some groups worked much more effectively and were able to listen to group member’s ideas and ensured that all were involved. Others hit major communication roadblocks which hindered their progress. This activity transformed itself from a math problem to a social and group work problem and some very valuable lessons were learned. I was very proud though of each group for being honest about what their struggles were and in trying to apply strategies to solve. In the end, some groups decided to part ways and others remained in tact. Students also wrote individual reflections for me regarding what challenges they faced during this activity and how it affected their ability to move forward.

Now that the blueprint is created...how do we make our way through it?
Now that the blueprint is created…how do we make our way through it?

I was really amazed to see them work their way through their larger scale models. It was much harder for some to visualize the map while also moving themselves through it. Just a simple transformation of a problem, allowed them to view it much differently and made for a different set of strategies.

This week, we will review this problem again and reflect on our learnings. The students have also completed a mini review of place value and all have shown their knowledge and so we will be moving forward with estimation strategies. We will be beginning a project based on real-life applications of place value and estimation focused on purchasing property in Alberta.

 Social Studies

We have been learning about our heritage and who we are. Our theme for this year is ” Who Do You Think You Are?” as we also focus on Canada as a country and its foundations. We had a lot of discussions about where we think our ancestors came from and how they may have come to Canada. One of our starting projects was the one sent home with the students this weekend. To prepare them for asking deeper questions that transcend beyond the “what is your favourite food?” and more along the lines of “where is my family from and how and why did they come to Canada?”, students were paired up to interview one another. One student was the interviewer, another was the interviewee and a third was the question collector.

Interviewing one another!
Interviewing one another!

We brainstormed together just how we could transform the what, where and when questions into deeper why and how questions. Then we paired up with student’s from Mrs. Krefting’s grade 5 classroom to watch an episode of the show “Who Do You Think You Are?” where actor Jim Parsons from The Big Bang Theory discovers his heritage by asking deeper questions to lead him on his quest for finding the answers.

Collaboratively applying our interviewing skills.
Collaboratively applying our interviewing skills.

Students from both classes brainstormed a variety of open-ended questions while collecting their favourite ones in either a google doc or in their social studies duo tangs. Working with peers from outside of our classroom really helped them to connect and express their ideas more openly. They also re-met with Mrs. Krefting’s class on Wednesday and had the opportunity to hear Mr. Dahliwal speak about his family’s journey to Canada and ask him questions. Following that interview, they practiced a cold-call interview with me where I didn’t provide my family’s story until they asked me the questions that would lead them to their answers. It was wonderful to see the realization in their faces when a one-answer question was asked and it didn’t provide them with what they needed and in fact allowed them to re-process and re-ask it in a different format.

This week we will review their findings from their home interviews, discuss deeper questioning and fill in gaps as needed for interviewing at home before beginning to piece together the information.


We are learning about the connections between electricity, magnetism and static. Students each received a balloon, a variety of different materials and provided with an outcome but not with the “how” or “why” to experiment with their findings. Some  of the outcomes were:

  • Make the balloon stick to the wall without using anything else for help
  • Make a cereal pendulum swing/bounce without touching it, blowing on it or shaking the table

  • Make the cereal jump/move without touching them, blowing on them or shaking the table

  • Turn the tap on so that a small stream of water is running out, make the stream bend without touching it or blowing on it

Students recorded their findings along with how they did it, why they think it worked and any questions they had regarding it. Some of the ways they came up with for moving their materials through static electricity were absolutely incredible.

Video – She decided to crush her cereal and use her balloon as a magnet

Video – Using the cereal to move her balloon

Video – Realizing how she could move the balloon with her leg

Instinctively using balloons to create static electricity!
Instinctively using balloons to create static electricity!

This week we will be focusing on electricity and circuits.

Language Arts

We are participating in the Global Read Aloud with the book The Fourteenth Goldfish. Students have been making predictions and tweeting their thoughts via our Twitter account. We have been connecting with a variety of classrooms online about the story and what we think is going to happen. Students have also began to utilize their blogs for reflection on the story and a variety of other topics.

They were overjoyed to see their parents leaving them comments last week and interacting with their learning. They immediately wanted to read not only theirs but their peers’ blogs too. They have been reading, reflecting and providing each other with comments and feedback and welcome you to join us!

They will be blogging daily and we look forward to connecting with you!

This was a long review due to parent conferences last week but I sincerely appreciate your time and feedback. Please let me know below in the comment section your thoughts!

Some questions to ponder and discuss with your child and in the comment section below:

  • How can you apply problem-solving strategies at home to help your child?
  • Where do you use place-value and estimation strategies in your daily life?
  • Have you discovered something new about your family or enjoyed sharing something with your child about their heritage this weekend?
  • Where in your home do you have electric circuits and can you share these with your child?

We look forward to hearing your feedback as a class!

Miss D. Ariss


Classroom Learning – September 26, 2014

We have jumped right in to building our foundation for life-long learning in LC5B. As our core focus in on inquiry and problem-solving through real-world applications, the students are learning how to ask questions and how to approach problems in every aspect of our curriculum.

To have students thinking about problems and ways to apply different strategies that work for them, we looked at assisting this Rocket Propelled Coyote from one place to another. Students came up with their own individual solutions through actively trying, failing and re-attempting different possible outcomes. I loved watching them push through their frustrations and share with one another the ways in which  they solved the coyote’s problem.

Figuring out how to get the coyote from one place to another.
Figuring out how to get the coyote from one place to another.

At one point during our session, Mr. McLean joined us and pointed out that he had a different interpretation of the problem. He was attempting to get the Coyote to his exact location, while we were attempting to get him there within one 1km. That moment allowed us to learn that how we read and interpret a problem may be different which would also produce different outcomes.

Our challenge to you….can you help the Coyote and show or tell us how you did it? Please leave us a comment below!