math, Mathematical Processes, Social Emotional Learning


We started keeping track of our own acts of kindness about 2 weeks ago. We needed to know of what it really means to be kind, and conscious of when we were actually doing it.

To help us out, I printed a sheet of 100 hearts. Our goal was achieved in only 6 school days!

Of course I found a way to add some math. There are ten hearts in each row. Initially I coloured in 5 hearts with one marker and the other 5 in another colour. We were counting by 5s and it was all going well until someone decided to put us on the fast track and do some covert colouring of hearts.

For the second attempt I switched to bingo daubers and counting by 10s. At first only one child was counting the hearts…both up and down. “We have 12, so 88 to go!” They’d say. Then more kids jumped in and every time I’d colour in a few (they always had many acts of kindness to report after recess) more and more kids would help with the running total, as well as the number remaining. They’ve been less than enthusiastic about lots of the math we’ve done, so I was excited that they got excited about this.

Of course we had to keep going. Today I added more hearts to our new chart. The filled chart was behind it. “How many do we have now?” I asked. They all agreed we had seven. “I disagree I said. They started to try to convince me I was wrong. It was good to see they are learning some math reasoning skills, but I was right. I pulled out our filled chart and put them side by side. “I think we have 107,” I said.

They had no choice but to agree with me.

I can’t wait to see where this goes tomorrow.

It also helped them become more aware of opportunities to help out. Someone dropped crayons one day and I made a big deal out of adding some hearts for the helper. I truly don’t know if they had ever considered helping a classmate out, especially for a chore like cleaning. I’m happy to report this type of thing has become more common for us.

Guided Math, math, Math Workshop

Fun and Games

It’s not really all fun and games, but I have found math games to be a life saver for us this year. All of the math that happens during a game seems to be secondary to the learning that comes from actually participating in a game with a group of ones peers: sharing, turning taking, good sportsmanship and gracious losing.

One of our favourite games as been played with dice and a giant pop-it board. I bought a few of these and we’ve definitely gotten my money’s worth.

The kids take turns rolling dice, adding up the totals and then popping that many pop-its. Nothing like jumping on a trend! They love this. I’m already seeing many more kids subitizing, counting on instead of counting every dot, and doing the addition from memory.

We have also played a card matching game. We removed the face cards and tens. The remaining cards are layed out in an array. Kids turn over two at a time and try to make a match. A match is any two cards that add up to ten. We still need some help with this game. Mostly we need help remembering what makes a match instead of just trying to find two of the same number.

Picture this:

Me: No. 4+4 isn’t a match. A match is two cards that add up to 10 and 4+4=8.

Them: But that’s hard!

Me: But it won’t stay hard if you keep practicing.

Them: *dramatic sigh*

We’ll keep working on this game.

This past week I introduced a new game. This game is all over the Internet and is typically called “Shut the Box”. I have no idea why it earns this name because the boxes are usually laid out in a straight line. It should be called something like “Fill the Line”. For now I’m calling it, “This cool new game I think you’ll like.” I’ve got until Monday to come up with a better name.

For this game they need a game board (one each) and a pair of dice. On their turn they roll the dice twice, then try to figure out which of the numbers on the game board can be covered with a counter of some sort. They can add or subtract the numbers on the dice. I made my own game boards and printed them on 8.5 x 11 paper.

This game was a big hit with everyone, especially the kids who got The Tricky Version.

I didn’t have enough ten-sided dice, so the groups playing this version used virtual dice on Toy Theater. They were especially excited to find that I’d made a mistake! In my haste to completed my planning and creating, I neglected to notice that the 10 sided dice here have the numbers 0-9, not 1-10 as I had assumed. On Monday I am going to have them help me figure out which numbers I need to add or take away on the game board.

I’ve also created a game board we didn’t use yet. It uses the “count by tens” dice on Toy Theater. I’ve decided the 00 side will count as 100.

One of the really interesting things about my class this year is that they have such a wide range of abilities. It’s a 2/3 split, but in math they are more like a k-4 split. Some of the students will stick with the first game board for a while, while others will be creating their own game boards using the fancy dice on Toy Theater. I’m glad for games that can be adapted to meet a wide range of needs. I’m also glad for games that can be played independently. We’ll be using this, the pop-it game and the card game all month while I am doing Guided Math. I’ve always talked myself out of Guided Math, but I can’t this year. There’s no other way to meet the needs of all the people in the room. I’m teaching two different Fosnot units (Double Decker Bus and The T-Shirt Factory) at the same time and I really need to be with everyone while they work. The group that is not with me can play a game or work on Dreambox.

You can get a copy of the game boards I created here.

Coding, math, Measurement

It’s sinking in

I had intended to spend the whole week measuring. But guess what? They’re really pretty good at it! It’s the second time this year we’ve visited measuring and I’m pleased to see the spiralling is paying off. I had an activity planned that involved us measuring which of my many mini cars could go furthest after one push, but decided that is better suited to a science investigation we’ll do later. I

t was pre-Halloween week and I wasn’t sure we could handle that much excitement.

Instead we worked on an unplugged coding activity. (Find it here) It went so well! I’m feeling hopeful that we have rounded a corner. I finished gathering all the math assessment data so I feel better able to meet the range of needs (because I know what the needs are!) This week we’re tackling addition. I’ve done a few addition number talks but this will be our first real jump into the fire. Then in two weeks we’ll circle back to coding.


Teaching is Hard!

This past week was a challenging one. We’re struggling with the return to school – struggle I thought would be long past by now. It’s been hard to move forward in math (and everything else) but move forward we must! So how, I wonder, can I meet everybody’s social-emotional needs, physical needs, and academic needs?

We’ve worked for two weeks on making patterns with math manipulatives. I don’t remember ever needing to teach this before. Usually everyone arrives with this basic math skill. This year they are even struggling with chanting the skip counting patterns. We aren’t anywhere near being able to talk deeply about number patterns.

So I gave everyone an academic break on Friday and we made beaded bracelets. This type of activity is fun, and it really motivates everyone to do some social emotional work. They had to make a pattern, politely ask a neighbour (or me) for certain beads, string them all on the elastic cord (which can be tricky & requires perseverance), and deal with the frustration of dropping beads. It was fun, and taught them a lot. Communication and resilience are two really important math skills.

This week I’m moving forward. We’ll do some counting routines every day for Number Talks, but our focus is going to shift to measuring. We really need to start moving toward understanding number lines, so I want them all using rulers and measuring tape this week.

Guided Math, math, Social Emotional Learning


All that stuff I planned for last week went differently than expected. I thought I could interview 4 students per day and finish the whole class. Instead I missed a day because my son was sick and another day because of our Terry Fox walk. Also, I could only interview two students each day because that’s all the time the rest of the class could stay busy.

Despite not reaching my goal I do feel good about the work we did. I’m repeating the plan for the week, just switching out the colour tiles for 3D shapes. Everyone will have a chance to play with those, the pattern blocks, iPads and my new giant “pop it” game board where they practice addition facts. After I interview two friends each day we’ll be talking about attributes of 2D and 3D shapes.

Reflecting on my week really is helpful. I feel like I’m climbing up hill all week and seeing little progress because I can’t meet any of my goals. Taking the time to reflect helps me see that we really are doing good things. Returning to school has been challenging. But not everyone is asking me when they can go home every ten minutes like they were two weeks ago, so I’m taking that as a sign that we’re settling in.



We played a fun game this past week called “Cover up”. I learned it from the book “What to Look For” by Alex Lawson.

Each pair of students got 20 tiles. One partner closes their eyes while the other covers or removes some tiles. Then the first child figure out how many are covered up.

It didn’t take long for all the groups to realize organized arrays are better than disorganized piles. The array allows a child to count empty spaces.

I enjoyed watching them use lots of other strategies to figure out how many were missing: counting what was left then counting up to 20, counting backward from 20, noticing a whole row was missing, subitizing the number left. I had one group work with only 10 tiles on the first day, but by day 2 they also had 20. Even the kids who had trouble at first soon, with the support of their partner, figured out what to do. It was a great task! I’ll be adding it to our repertoire of games for Guided Math.

Guided Math, math, Social Emotional Learning

Slow and steady

This week looked a lot like last week. I had no idea it would be so hard for me to slow down my “ease back into school” math routine. Typically by the third week we’re ready to rock and roll. But I am now preparing for week four and it’s more like elevator Muzak than Bon Jovi. I think it’s a good thing.

One of the things that was on my mind a lot is how long it’s taking for some of us to fall back into school mode. It makes sense because the students in my grade 2/3 class haven’t completed a full year of school since kindergarten. A colleague suggested that it might also because it continues to feel like we could be closed again any time – kids can’t trust that we’re going to be here for long because school, for them, has always been uncertain. Makes sense.

We spent time this past week doing dot talks. It was interesting to learn about their thinking. But it was also interesting to learn how they communicate. But it was most interesting for me to see that they don’t think of counting as math. I would think that would stick out as a main component for them.

That’s where I plan to start on Monday: What is math? I’m going to ask them and we’ll talk about it. I hope we can establish that math is playing with numbers, shapes, and information. Should I put “playing” in air quotes? Not sure yet.

I think my number talks will need to be planned after this conversation. I’m predicting I’ll need to show them a few things and do a number talk on a different math area each day – data and graphing one day, geometry one day, number operations another day.

For lessons I think I’m ready to start getting the students ready to split into different groupings. Yes…I’m talking about Guided Math again. I don’t know a whole lot about my mathematicians yet, but I do know they are in many different places.

These are the centres I think I’ll have this week:

*games with cards

*games without cards (no idea what they will be yet!)

*iPads for online activities

*work with Mrs Corbett


On our way…

This week we accomplished a lot in our math class.  I mean, not much of it had to do with curriculum and I am sure none of it will end up on progress reports (I’ve received two reminders that those aren’t going away!) but it was a great week anyway.

The highlight of my week came on Monday. I have three students who were with me last year has grade 2s and they are repeating with me again this year as grade 3s. On Monday I had occasion to describe a picture as “one one-fourth” of something. One of them said, “Hey. Wait.” then he muttered “one one-fourth” a few times and said, “I had no idea that’s what one-fourth means. It means one out of four of something. One-fourth…get it? One out of four. I never knew that before.” I taught a lot of fractions last year. I thought I did a pretty good job. But for some reason this understanding clicked for him in that moment. I was immediately reminded of something Christine Tondevold says:  Number sense can’t be taught, it’s caught!  In other words, as she explains in this blog post, kids need experiences with numbers in order to understand them. I know that this “discovery” comes after a lot of teaching, but he didn’t really get it until that exact experience. 

The other thing I am feeling good about is the formative assessment I accomplished. I don’t think I wrote a single thing down, but I know a lot about my mathematicians already. I had everyone working in their math notebook and noticed how they print numbers and organize their thinking. I had everyone counting objects – some they could touch while counting and some that were on the board so they were encouraged to use other strategies.  We did a three-act math task every day I was able to start to establish our routine for Number Talks. Finally, we spent three days working on a math card game (a game like memory, but a match is two numbers that add up to 10.)

This is what I know we need to work on:

*Grouping objects to count them (sort of a surprise)

*Mathematical thinking (not a surprise)

*Organizing and communicating our math thinking (not a surprise)

*Working independently

That last one is going to be my biggest challenge. For a few years in a row, I have had a lot of kids in one grade and only a few in the other. This year I have nearly equal amounts. It’s a lot easier to have four kids working on an independent math task while I teach the other grade than it is asking 10 kids to be independent while I work with the other 10. I am determined not to make worksheets the independent activity every day, but I know that I will need to do that now and then. I do have 6 iPads and 2 laptops I can make into a workstation. It’s starting to sound like I am going to be doing Guided Math! I suppose that was bound to happen eventually. 

On the agenda for this week:

*Learn another card game that can be used as an independent activity

*Start some math work disguised as science work (measuring puddles as they evaporate throughout the day)

*Strengthen our Number Talk routines

*Photocopy math interviews so I can start them the week after

math, Measurement, Number Talks, Social Emotional Learning

Week 1: Done

This week we did many of the same activities I used last September for the first week of school. Namely we measured things that are a meter apart. Once again I was hoping that all I had to do to keep everyone a meter apart is show them how big a meter is. Don’t you love my optimism? Once again, we finished the week still needing practice.

As I sit here today working on my plans for the coming week I’m reflecting on how quickly everyone did fall back into some of the Number Talk routines that are common in my school. I typically have a class mostly inherited from one teacher, but this year it is a mixed group. I’m at a dual-track French/English school and I have more transfer students from French Immersion than I’ve ever had at once. I wasn’t sure how many of them may have used a “thumbs up” for Number Talks, or how many may have discontinued this during online school in the spring.

Last week we did a lot of counting for our Number Talks. I know I originally got this activity from Graham Fletchy, but I cannot find it! Basically I had a plastic cup (noisy) and I dropped small stones into it while making sure they could not see the objects falling. The class had to count as I dropped and then tell how many were in the cup based on what they heard. It’s a great activity that helped us talk about listening closely while also establishing our Number Talk routine. I’m definitely doing the “popping balloons” activity (from Graham Fletchy) this week, and few others I’ll report on next week. I didn’t expect to need to spend time on counting (grade 2 and 3!) but we need it anyway. Many students went right to rote counting and reciting and I want to make sure everyone remembers (and is able) to match a number to a “plunk” in the cup, or to an object they touch or see. I suspect we just need to get back into the groove of school, but one can never tell in September!

This week I will also be plopping everyone online for a few minutes. I want to make sure everyone can sign in and knows where to find our class page. I hope we don’t ever end up back online again, but I need to make sure everyone is ready…just in case!

For our regular lessons, we’ll do some more measuring. Looking at our class numbers I’m predicting some reorganization AND I want to stick with a gentle start to the year. Everyone in grade 2 seems to like measuring.


Back in the groove: Part 2

Well, that was a long gap! I stopped blogging last year because I had to cut some things off my “to do” list. I was taking two courses, I was teaching full time and parenting full time, and I was surviving a pandemic. Math blogging got the ax because I was working on a math writing project and I found I was tired of writing about math and didn’t want to reflect on it quite as closely as blogging forces me to do.

So here I am five sleeps away from another first day of school. I’m really glad I at least blogged about September 2020 because that’s helping me get started on planning September 2021. I already have the measuring activities in my day plans for next week. I don’t know if I will go from there to coding and dancing or to some of the patterning things I like to do with manipulatives. I am definitely doing some estimation jars. I need to meet my people before I can make set plans though.

Last year 15 of 19 students were in grade 3. That’s roughly 25%. This year 8 of 19 are in grade 2. That’s roughly 40%. It’s a game changer! I’ve had splits like this before and it’s very hard right now to predict how I am going to manage this. Stay tuned.

I’m not taking any courses this year. I am, however, working on a thesis. I’m predicting that blogging my math reflections will fit nicely with that. Math is not the focus of the thesis, but I am working a project about creativity in the classroom and math will definitely be part of it. In fact, I am now going to end this post so I am read about creativity as a mathematical process.