Games for Home

When I was a kid, we played games a lot.  We sort of liked board games, but we really liked card games. I suspect this is because my 3 siblings and I often lost the pieces of games, but we seemed to always have decks of cards around. We loved Rummy, 21, Gin Rummy, Yahtzee, and Uno.   There is a lot of math that goes into playing games, and I don’t think I ever realized this as a kid!

Last week I wrote about using the 100 board in class. There are many games that can be played with a 100 board, and all of them help strengthen a child’s number sense. We’ll be working on activities on the 100 board all year long!

I recently bought some 100 board games from Arnold Tutoring, and we’ve been having a great time with them at home. We like to play all sorts of games, so it was easy to convince my children to play these!



Both games were definitely worth the money! I can download a 100 board for free, but by the time I copy, laminate, buy all the game supplies and a nice container to keep it all in, it will have cost me a bit. Plus: I have no time! So the games were definitely worth the money I spent. And I didn’t have to pay for shipping. And I love internet shopping. Really, this was more like an investment in my quality of life. (Seriously!)

“What’s my number?” is like one of our favourite games, which is called “Guess Who?” Except this is played with numbers instead of people. “Add to 10” is a bit tricky for us right now, but we easily changed it to suit us (my son is good with numbers, but he’s only in grade 1, so not quite ready for double digit addition.) We rolled the very nice 0-9 die, and then talked about our strategy for moving forward on the board. If nothing else the game would have paid for itself just using it this way. But I know we’ll get to more involved math before the end of the school year. This game set will grow with us.

These are games meant to replace math worksheets. They are for families that want to strengthen their child’s math skills, and have a good time doing it. I’m so glad I bought them, because they have made it so easy to add some math to our bedtime routine!

If you think you’d like to order some of these, check out the shop at



The 100 Chart

It used to really bother me when my students filled out a hundred chart in random order. I wanted them to start at and finish at 100, demonstrating that they can count in order, and that they could print all the numbers. But I’ve changed my thinking on this.

Here is some work we did this week:

In each of these examples, the child is following a pattern. It’s not always the standard counting pattern usually it’s the patterns in the one’s place.

This tells me more about my growing mathematicians than whether or not they can count to 100.

Next week we are going to fill in the numbers from 101-200. I can’t wait to see what patterns they continue to use to fill out the chart! And I really can’t wait for the conversations we’ll have around this!

math, Math Workshop, Number Sense & Numeration


This past week I had a chance to think about, and talk to colleagues about, how my family did math at home when I was a kid. My answer: we played games. I don’t recall having much homework until high school. I always got off the bus (5th grade and up) by myself and had about an hour before my mom came home. I typically did my homework while watching Days of Our Lives.

After dinner, however, it wasn’t uncommon for us to play Rummy, Gin Rummy, or Uno. We also enjoyed Yahtzee and Monopoly. If nobody was into it, I’d play Solitaire by myself (yes, I was a kid before it was possible to start a game online with someone.) When I was a teenager my dad taught me to play Black Jack. (It’s much less stressful with my dad than it is in Atlantic City for sure!)

Now I like to play games, in class and at home with my own children. Some of our favourites are War, Addition (or multiplication) War, and Tens Go Fish. You can play any of these with a standard deck of cards. Remove the Face cards if your children aren’t ready for adding, or multiplying, 11-13!

Today in class we did 100 chart puzzles. I copied 100 charts on card stock and cut them apart. Since I made these I have been using a 120 chart in class, but I couldn’t let the game go to waste. I suppose I should pass it off to the grade 1 class and make a new set. It was easy, and cheap. I’ve got nothing to lose. You can see here that some of my puzzles are more challenging than others.

Besides practicing math, games are a great way to practice taking turns, and losing with grace. These are important skills for kids to learn too!

Data Management

Which is your favourite?

Halloween is a great time to gather some data and manage it. There’s so much candy to sort!

In my ongoing effort to do things like surveys and graphs in a regular basis instead of as a separate unit, I planned to ask everyone about candy today. I already knew that everyone could come up with a “What is your favourite _____?” Or “Which _____ do you like best?” question. I decided to change the question. Instead, I told the class that I think all candy falls into 5 categories: chocolate, gummies, hard candy (lollipops and Jolly Ranchers), gum and liquorice. Nobody fought me on this. I’m just realizing now we could have had quite the debate about this. Where, for example, would Laffy Taffy and Starburst fit? And what about Reese’s Pieces? But nobody thought of those until just now!

Because I was asking which candy they liked, they could answer more than once. Only voting once is always tricky for kids with a question like this because they like so many things. And, I explained, I actually don’t like liquorice but am willing to accept that some people might.

Here are our results, tallied and then graphed:

We counted the chocolate tallies. As I tallied the gummy votes, someone pointed out that gummy and chocolate were the same. We talked about how we could tell without counting, which was actually a revelation to several students. However, they noticed it on their own for hard candy and gum. I’m glad we could talk about this one-to-one correspondence because it will come up again when we start talking about multiplication.

Since we have 22 students, and only one was away, we had to figure out who didn’t like some of the candies. We talked about how many people were not voting for each candy categories. Finally, we talked about how just because I don’t like liquorice doesn’t mean I shouldn’t buy it for them. (Nice of me, right?)

I’m going to add this to our math walk tomorrow. I want it up to remind everyone about organized data, and how it’s so much easier to follow along with than the other kind (haphazard tallied scattered abroad.). By the end of the month I want everyone to be able to come up with a good question and gather data. We’ll mostly be doing this during social studies as we begin our study of world communities.

Data Management, math, Number Sense & Numeration, Patterning & Algebra

Which Way Do I Go?

The beginning of the year is hard for me in math. There are so many things that need to be done!  This is especially true for those of us who are teaching split grade classes.  Some things are the same: number sense, for example.  I can figure out where everyone is and take them to where they need to be.  But my grade 2s are supposed to learn about some things that the grade 3s are supposed to already know (which sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t) and the grade 3s are supposed to do things that the grade 2s are not (which sometimes they are ready for and sometimes they are not!)  And I know I can still do the things, and it won’t hurt anyone to learn about something a year early, but it all takes time. And even though it’s only the 29th of October, I feel like time is slipping away and I need to GET ON IT!

So this week, I was feeling like it was time to move on from adding the tens and the ones.  I gathered the balances so we could talk about balancing equations.  I started planning in my mind where we’d go next.  But by Friday, I realized that I might be moving on a bit to fast.

Remember when I wrote about how we were having trouble communicating our math thinking? Well, that hasn’t gone away yet.  Now that we are adding, and even subtracting those double-digit numbers, I thought, wouldn’t it make sense to stop there and do some problem solving?  Wouldn’t it make sense, I asked myself, to take this thing we are pretty good at doing and use it to practice the communication piece?

So this is what we are doing.

  1. Trip over the balances that are shoved out of sight behind my desk. It was a pain to get them into the room so I’m just going to live with them for a while.
  2. Monday’s problem:  (Two versions because I am differentiating!)There are 14 red apples, 15 green apples, and 8 yellow apples.  Can each child in the class have one apple? 

     There are 4 red apples, 5 green apples, and 8 yellow apples.  Can each child in the class have one apple?


  3. Tuesday’s Problem: I bought some Halloween candy this weekend!  I have 15 suckers, 23 Smarties, and 30 Kit Kat.  Do I have enough for every child in our class to have 3 pieces of candy?   

    I bought some Halloween candy this weekend!  I have 10 suckers, 12 Smarties, and 4 Kit Kat.  Do I have enough for every child in our class to have 1 piece of candy? (The Smarties are stressing me right now because I mean 23 of those little boxes of Smarties, but there are 10 actual Smarties in each.  There’s a unitizing thing in there.  I think I’ll just have to verbally clarify with the class before moving on.  I’d just take out the Smarties all together, but I’m sort of feeling committed to them now because it’s going to give us something good to talk about.)

  4. Wednesday: Give in to the evil of Hallowe’en and graph some candy.  (I try to do random survey’s and graphing instead of a data management unit.  I’m going call it spiralling, like all the cool #iteachmath teachers.)  Then they’ll work on these alone, not with their Learning Partners:Make a list of 10 ways you can add two numbers and get the answer 37 every time. 

    Make a list of 5 ways you can add two numbers and get 10 every time. 

  5.  Thursday and Friday: Depends on how the other days are going.  I really want to make sure that I am not rushing through.  I want to take the time to congress the solutions properly, and to talk about what makes a good visual representation of the groups thinking.  We are starting up with November Learning Partners (a few days early because we were all just DONE with the October groupings!) I have a fun nrichmaths activity that we will do if things are going well.  And I have some 100 chart puzzles we can do, which will help reinforce the work we’ve been doing about noticing patterns in the 10’s and ones that help us take leaps of 10 and 1.  We are on to Measuring for the Art show next, and this is an important understanding for that unit.
  6. Then it’s Monday again, and we can balance some equations.  Probably.  Most likely. “It is highly likely that the class will work on balancing equations next week.” to put it in data management and probability  language.  And then we should move on to some geometry because that is something I have a hard time integrating on it’s own at this particular grade level.

Even though I am feeling compelled to get moving, what I really want to do is make sure everyone understands what we are doing now.  These adding and subtracting and patterning and data management skills are so important and there’s no sense in moving on until everyone is ready, not just me.


math, Math Workshop


Communicating about math is a whole skill set of its own.

Case in point: each of these pictures is supposed to show you how 3 children would share 10 granola bars.

I’ll probably write at some point about the actual math. But I was most struck by the issues we encountered with communicating their thinking in writing. They basically got correct answers, but I’d never really know that with a couple of the groups if I hadn’t talked to them, and if I hadn’t helped them through the communication piece.

We’ve done a bit of this, and it’s clearly one of the things I need to focus on. I give them paper and ask them to communicate their strategies; “Show me how you got your answer!” I say, and I get little cartoons of kids writing the correct answer on a paper. Seriously. I’ve been doing a lot of modelling of writing to record our discussions during Number Talks and Number Strings. Alas, we still find ourselves in murky waters.

To be clear: it’s not just this year that my students have struggled with this. They are 7 and 8 years old…some still 6 at this point in the year! Writing is a skill they are learning. And by writing I mean printing letters and numbers, translating a stream of consciousness into written words, pictures, and numbers, and doing all of this while remembering what it is that needs to be said. They, pretty consistently across the class, thought they could write 3 names on that 10th granola bar and be done. They kept saying, “What is this big paper for?” And I kept pointing to the front of the room where our last set of math posters was still taped to the board.

I’ve had students who use manipulatives to show how they got an answer, but then not have the words to explain. They just point and smile.

I know we’ll get there! I will keep demonstrating. I have given everyone a small math journal, and for the last question during a Number Talk I ask them to write their strategy. I think it’s helping. Actually, I know it’s helping! We’re only in the middle of October. There are a lot of days left to practice mathematical communication skills.



Today I’m thinking a lot about routines. This is probably because this entire week has been one interruption after the next, and the routine I worked hard to establish in the first weeks of school has basically been all but abandoned. There wasn’t much to be done about it. And just as evil helps us appreciate good, dark helps us appreciate light, and January helps us appreciate every other month of the year, these sorts of weeks help us appreciate the routines that keep us from going bonkers most other weeks of the year.

As I stood in the gym today waiting for everyone to have their school pictures done, I was reflecting on the hastily abandoned math activity that was strewn about our classroom. I’ve recently decided that I need to move my math hour to a different time of the day. It’s taken us 3 classes to get most of the way through what should be a one day lesson in the Context for Learning math unit called “Collecting and Organizing”. Why? Well, see, every time we get going there’s an interruption and we stall out. And everyday thinking about the impending lunch break seems to take precedent over everyone’s thinking about math.

When we return from the second of three long October weekends, I’m moving math to a totally different time of day. Instead of having 50 math minutes, it will give me a solid 60, with 20 more straight after so I can spend some extra time when I need to. We. We’ll have extra time when we need it. We need time to do an activity AND Bansho or Congress directly after. Not the day after, but right after. And if we have time to go back to the table for some revisions all the better. Last year I could do a Number Talk before the French teacher arrived & then jump into the lesson when I returned. But it’s just not working this year and I’ve had to really think about why.

I like having things the way I like them, but truthfully I’m the person in the room who is most capable of adapting to the need of the group. After 5 weeks together I can confidently say this group moves at their own pace. They are not in a rush to do anything. So, I can try to get them to transition faster, and get to work faster, and COME TO THE CARPET ALREADY faster. Or I can just move math to a different time of day. Next week I’ll have four uninterrupted (theoretically) days to try it out. I think it will make a difference and we’ll go from things being okay to things being awesome.