Monday, January 19, 2015

Teaching Percents

Teaching percents is never easy.  With the common core, it was challenging in one way and simpler in another.  Normally the kiddos have an easier time transferring their understanding of ratios and proportions to percent.  But when I taught ratios this year, we focused on the idea of equal ratios and using ratio tables.  In 6th grade, the word "proportion" is not mentioned in the standards.  It makes its first appearance in 7th. I don't know if that is a plus or not.  Seems like it is a bit of a disservice to me, and perhaps next year I will teach them to solve rate problems using proportions, but this year I purposely stayed away from explicitly teaching them--don't get me wrong though, I couldn't stop myself from talking about proportional relationships and connecting the ratio tables to proportions!

When I was younger, I learned the different ways to find the percent of a number, the percent of a quantity, and the percent given the part & whole.  Then I started teaching it and I realized that solving percent problems via proportion caused a lot less confusion.  So, I made a decision this year that it still makes sense to me to teach this method.   However, they struggled more because we hadn't worked with "cross-multiplying and dividing" as much.  Their struggle, in turn, has caused me to struggle.  I wrestle regularly with the implementation of the "common core standards."  The ambiguity in them drives me crazy.

Although it is not in there explicitly, my team did make the decision to spend time with conceptual understanding of percents.  I do a variety of exploration activities to help with this, but one of my favorites is "Finding 10% and 50% of a number."  50% comes somewhat easily because they usually have a pretty good understanding of a half.  For 10% we work with objects, and then grids, dividing them into 10 parts and counting how much is in each group of 10.  Eventually many kids are able to see  that the decimal point is moving one place to the left to quickly determine 10%.   I firmly believe that by learning to find 10% of a number, students can solve many percent problems mentally and it helps them with checking to see if their answers make sense.  I created a game this year to have them practice this skill--check it out here.

In December, I actually won a giveaway on a blog and it made me so happy.  I want to try to give someone else that feeling, so I am going to try to hold my first giveaway ever.  I hope I have used rafflecopter correctly....only way to find out though is to try it out.  So, fingers crossed!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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