Pre-service training (PST) is over, and I have been sworn in as a Peace Corps Volunteer. However, during training I did not make any time for blog posts. I was always busy in class, teaching at model school, or spending time with my host family. PST is a busy time, full of many activities. For me, the two most valuable experiences of PST were my host family stay and model school.
As part of our training, Peace Corps Liberia trainees spend two weeks teaching a unit in a summer school for secondary school students in Kakata, Liberia. Peace Corps assigned me 7th grade mathematics. Specifically, I was instructed to teach addition and subtraction of natural numbers (integers greater than zero). Carrying (during addition) and borrowing (during subtraction) were the big concepts to cover. I developed a couple resources along the way, and thought I would share one.
To add quickly and accurately, it is important to have all the combinations of adding single digit numbers memorized. The majority of my students were still using their fingers to count out their addition problems, or writing tick marks on their papers. I wanted to give my students a way to drill single digit addition. However, I know from my own experience that a simple table is not sufficient because in a table (like a times table) the answer is staring me in the face, and my mind is not forced to do the math. So, I needed a way to provide all addition problems with the answers hidden. Flash cards are the traditional way of doing that, but I could not produce a deck of flash cards for every student in two classes of 30 students. Instead I created flash sheets. Each sheet has all the addition problems possible with numbers form 1 to 9 on one side, and the answers on the other side. The problems are randomized to prevent students from learning the pattern instead of the math. When folded properly (rolling each column over the next until the whole sheet is rolled up), the answer to any problem is always just underneath. Students can drill a column at a time, a row at a time, or randomly. They can practice alone or with a friend. The students really took to them. From other trainees, I heard that their host brothers and sisters were using them at home, and that students were spotted playing with them at the farthest reaches of town. My own host sister (age 7) really enjoyed hers. We would spend time almost every day practicing addition.