math, Number Sense & Numeration, Number Talks, Problem Solving

This past week at OAME, I was pretty focused on spiralling the math curriculum and on finding more problem solving tasks to use with my class.  I find that a lot of the tasks are a bit beyond our reach, which is frustrating.

One of the things I was introduced to was Graham Fletchy’s 3 Act Math Tasks. I so appreciate when a person is willing to create a resource like this and then share it with the wide world!  While planning my week, I picked out a few in particular that I thought would engage my students, while also spiralling us back to some Big Ideas we haven’t worked with for a while.

Today we did this task, called Snack Machine.  We have had a lot of practice working with each other.  We have had a lot of practice thinking about a strategy to use to solve a problem.  But this task, and others on the site, really allow for a lot of divergent thinking.   There are multiple entry points, and multiple paths to a solution.  It’s great!

In the Snack Machine, a video shows a girl buying something from a vending machine.  We watched, then talked about it, then watched again, then talked again.

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At this point, the children didn’t know what the problem would be.  They were simply looking at the video and mathematizing it. The discussion started off with someone suggesting that the girl in the video looked at her change and was disappointed.  That definitely had people thinking about why.  I got a kick (as my grandma would say) out of one of them suggesting that the machine scammed her.

After the second viewing, we had things to add.  We heard 4 coins fall, so which coins might they have been?  That lead to a long conversation, mainly because 4 toonies would make that sound, but would be an awful lot of money for a bag of chips, but 4 nickels wouldn’t really make sense either.  In act 2, there is a picture of the vending machine showing us that the chips actually cost 60 cents. Then another video shows the machine counting up the money.  We added that to our board:

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Sorry about the cropping – I have written the initials of the person who contributed the idea and don’t want to publish them. Also, SO THAT’S WHERE MY ERASER AND RED MARKERS HAVE BEEN ALL DAY!

After this, I sent them off to figure out the coins she must have used.  Amazing things happened!  After everyone had a pretty good shot at solving the problem, I showed the final video.  In that video we see that the change was 2 dimes.  They used this to confirm that 80 cents had gone in, 20 cents had come out + 60 cents worth of chips, so it all made sense. No scam!

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This friend needed help putting in the + sign, and also knowing where to put the $ sign.

 

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This friend needed help knowing that she’d arrived at the answer. Annotating our thinking continues to be a skill we need to practice.

The money used was American money, and of course a little bag of chips would cost more than 60 cents in a Canadian vending machine. But I told them the two coins we saw were dimes, and that was good enough for them.

Yesterday we worked on Sliced Up, which had us estimating, thinking backward from oranges cut into wedges to whole oranges, and finally multiplying (5 whole oranges, 4 wedges from each orange so how many wedges in all?) For tomorrow, I am debating between It All Adds Up which is a nice money connection to Snack Machine, and The Whopper Jar   which is a nice follow up to the estimating we did in Sliced Up.  Whichever problem doesn’t make the cut tomorrow will our Monday task.  I’m learning toward the money problem because I have a bunch of activities we could do as Number Talks to stretch that learning all week.

It’s EQAO week at our school and I like having some fun, confidence building task for my students to work on.

math, Number Sense & Numeration, Number Talks

Slice of Life: Multiply the Money

I wrote yesterday about a Number Talk I had worked on with my class.

Today I extended that activity by making an array using money.  I used the Mathies money tool to display an array made of nickels, then I asked, “What do you see?”

We built this display of our thinking a bit at a time, so I am sure it made more sense to us than it might to you!  Someone saw 45 cents.  Then someone else saw 15 cents (3x5cents) and then 3 groups of 15 = 45.  Some saw the array 3 x 3 = 9 nickels all together. I pointed out 3 x 15 and 9 x 5.  Thanks to our work with fact families, a few realized 45 “shared by” 3 people means they get 15 cents each.  Seriously!  They didn’t just point out that 3×15=45 so 45 divided by 3 = 15.  They actually explained what was happening! (Full disclosure: not all of them.)

After this conversation, I cleared the board and made an array using toonies. Now, you might have been expecting me to use dimes, but I thought the $2 coin was better considering that we haven’t talked about multiplying by 10 and my grade 2s would get a lot more out of the conversation if we were thinking about multiples of 2 rather than 10. I will probably give 10s a try tomorrow on their own.  After our success today it seems like a good way to get everyone to start thinking about multiples of 10. I’m looking forward to it!

 

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Just about every Tuesday I blog for the Slice of Life challenge over at Two Writing Teachers. You can read more posts on that blog.
math, Number Sense & Numeration, Number Talks

What you see isn’t what I see

For Number Talks this past week I made some arrays on Smart Notebook and projected them on the board. We spent time each day talking about what we noticed and thought. Early on the fact families emerged. I’m glad because we’ve just finished up some multiplication and division learning and I was glad to see this being put into practice.

On Friday I displayed the picture below:

As you can see there were multiple ways to see this picture. Immediately people saw the array of 4 rows with 3 bikes in each.

One child kept insisting it was 2 groups of 6. It took a minute for him to convince his peers, and I had to help by circling the 2 groups. I’m glad we took the time to let him explain! He was clearly showing some beginning “partial products” thinking and I wouldn’t have known this if I hadn’t probed for an explanation.

Finally someone started talking about the bike tires. I don’t have a photo of that annotation, but it was interesting to see how the students went in to figure out that 12 groups of 2 = 12+12 = 24. Of course they were able to complete the fact family. At this point very few were counting by one’s. I was quite happy about that for sure!

It took me very little time to use the tools in Smart Notebook to make these arrays. I’ve definitely used Mathies for this as well, but the pictures in Smart Notebook led to a deeper conversation. This week I need to find some cars with 4 wheels to expand on our conversation.

This work also builds on the “Eyes on Math” number talks and picture-based number talks we’ve been doing all year. Tomorrow we are going on an array hunt around the school with our iPads. That activity has been preempted a few times but I think it will end up being a better activity now that we’ve discussed the picture arrays a few times.

math, Number Sense & Numeration, Number Talks, Patterning & Algebra

Counting

Years ago I bought this treasure at a yard sale for $1:

There are well over 100 beaded necklaces in that bin!  I use them exclusively for math, though I definitely have had some children in the past 10 years who would have loved to wear them, or just run their hands through them over and over.  (It does feel nice!)

I bought them to use for a specific counting game.  I didn’t know about this game until I came to Canada.  Seemed every Core French teacher I ever worked with loved this game, though now that I am in an Immersion/English dual track school it isn’t as popular.  In French, this game is called “Dix” or Ten. The class sits in a circle and counts to 10, each saying one number.  Whoever says ten gets to sit down, and the game is played until there is just one person left.  I bought these necklaces when I was teaching kindergarten.  I didn’t want anyone to get out because the “out” people aren’t getting any practice.  I feel like I may have read about this in the Effective Guide to Instruction in Mathematics, but I can’t be sure.

Over the years, this game has evolved. I now use it for skip counting by all sorts of numbers: count by 10s and whoever says 100 gets a necklace, count by 5s and whoever says 50 gets a necklace, and so on.  I am getting ready to start some multiplication with my class after the March Break, so last week I pulled out the necklaces and we started using them every day for a few minutes before the mini-lesson.

On Friday, I asked everyone to count by 10s, and whoever said 30 got a necklace.  After we’d made it around the circle once, I asked them to talk about the pattern they could see.  Several realized there was a pattern.  It was identified as a “no, no, yes” pattern an “ABBABB” pattern, and a “skip, skip, yes” pattern.  Finally someone said, “It goes, 1, 2, 3! 1, 2, 3!” (emphasis on the 3!) I asked what would happen if we counted by ones.  Sure enough, every time someone said 3 s/he was wearing a necklace.  Then we counted past 3 to see if the pattern would continue.  I scribed on the board for them so everyone could see the numbers while we counted, and then I circled the numbers that corresponded with a person wearing a necklace.

Sure enough!  The pattern continued.

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We talked about how we could use what we had learned to count by threes, just like when we count by 5s or 10s or 2s.  Everyone was amazed, and several were happy to share their strategy: say the numbers you are skipping quietly to yourself then say the third number loud and proud.

I’ve been reading the book “Number Routines” by Jessica Shumway, and this activity shows up in that book too.  She recommends that the class start with one of her many number routines, then Number Talk, and then the mini lesson.  I’ve been giving that a try this week and I like the way the counting routine lead into the lesson, which is going to lead into our next unit of study.

Well, not exactly “next”.  We’re going to spend a bit of time on time and temperature.  But then it’s off to multiplication we go!

math, Math Workshop, Number Sense & Numeration, Number Strings, Number Talks

Early Algebra

We started the “Trades, Jumps and Stops” Context for Learning unit quite some time ago. A variety of inclement weather days has interrupted us a lot, so we are behind where I thought we’d be at this point. That might be part of the issue I’m having with this unit.  I’ve not taught it before, so that has to take a bit of the blame as well.  And finally, I’m thinking I might have misjudged our general readiness for this unit.  But I talked to my down-the-hall neighbour who is also doing the unit and she concurred:  It seems that some kids are easily getting it, and some are really, really having to work hard to get it.  There’s not a lot of in-between here.

Day 4 of the unit begins with a mini-lesson that we needed quite a bit of time with.  I was to fill 2 separate bags with a certain amount of coins in each, plus a “mystery” coin.  We have had a bit of trouble adding up coins, so I decided to stretch this out a bit instead of trying to get through it in 15 minutes.  Instead of putting the bags out of reach, I gave the coins to kids.  I started by explaining, “X and Y have some coins.  They have an equal amount of money, but they have different coins.  I want to see if you can figure out which coins they have.” On the first day only one child had a “mystery” coin (a poker chip!), but on the second day both kids had one.  The children holding the coins were very excited to be given this job. It gave them practice identifying the coin by name and value.  Have you ever thought about how we interchangeable use “dime” & “10 cents” when talking about coins? Some of the kids are still calling this “The Boat”.

We unpacked the bags a bit at a time.  I don’t have pictures of the whole process, but this is how it looked in the end.  Obviously our mystery coin was worth 10 cents this time.  This is the beginning of the children learning about a variable, and I think they did OK!

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On the second day, we talked more about the signs < > and =.  We added up the coins in chunks, as suggested in the lesson, and then decided if we needed to have a < or a > or if we finally needed the =.  This time, instead of adding them up as a group, I had the students work with partners.  We knew that X had 40 cents, and Y had 5o cents, but how much would they have once they each got another quarter?  This partnership was trying to make a number line across the bottom end of this photo, without actually making the number line.  It’s a step in the right direction for them!

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They wanted to have the numbers in a long line, but couldn’t hold all those totals in their head. Writing them above helped them work on the math and compensated for the stress load on their working memory.

We had lots of people able to do this:

Finally we made it to the mystery coin.  We knew how much money everyone had in actual coins, but what was that mystery coin worth? This led to one of those really cool moments when I felt like (most) everyone was excited about the math.  You can see here where I recorded some of the different responses to the value of the mystery coin.

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I was even able to use a double number line to show two of the answers, and since that is the goal of this unit (developing an understanding of the double number line is in fact the very next lesson we will do!) I felt very good about that.

The next day I needed a Number Talk to reinforce the understanding of the variables.  I didn’t really NEED to do it, since this doesn’t come into the curriculum until a later grade, but they were excited about it, and it certainly can’t hurt them so we did it anyway. I found some images on Math Before Bed and use them for our Number Talk.  I feel like they really help to reinforce the student’s number sense because there is more than one way to make 10, or 12, or any number really.

The weather here is terrible today (Sunday) but I’m hopeful there will be plenty of actual school days this week when we can move forward with this unit.  I don’t want to lose our momentum!  Next time I do this unit, however, I am going to maybe wait a bit.  Of course, the thing that keeps getting me through is that I have to trust Cathy Fosnot! She says this will work, and she has seen it work with many, many children, so I am going to go ahead and finish the unit.  The students are mostly getting the ideas behind the math. Some of them are actually in need of more practice with adding up money.  I am going to make sure we have a day this week when we have some activities that require counting money and we’ll rotate through those to give everyone lots of practice. Often these blogs help me think through what has happened and what needs to happen next!  Time to stop writing and plan my money counting activities.

math, Number Talks

Collaboration

We’ve taken a little break from partner work in our class.  Increasingly our struggles with problem solving were getting all tangled up.  Instead of feeling frustrated because working with partners is hard, I felt too many of the students were starting to blame math for the problem and I didn’t want that feeling to perpetuate.  We took some time to do some worksheets *GASP* alone – mostly because I needed a bit more data to feel confident about assigning letter grades on report cards.  Geometry has been the focus of these.  We also took some time to loop back to patterning because this seems to be an area where lots of people hadn’t made a connection between patterning and using an open number line to add numbers.  I think we are there now!

Before we dive into our next unit (Trades, Jumps and Stops from the Context for Learning kits by Cathy Fosnot), I’m going to take some time next week to do some work on the collaboration part.  I have been assigning partners all year.  We’ve talked a lot about why I am choosing those particular partners for everyone.  Now it is time for them to make some choices of their own and I will also be asking them to justify those choices and articulate what makes a good partners.

Once partnerships are established, partnerships last for a month.  They stick together for every part of our day when they might need a partner – writing, reading, science, math and anything else. We will be working on building our collaboration skills all day long.  Specifically in math, I am going to ask everyone to do a “turn and talk” with their partner during each Number Talk.  Usually we do what I think most people do:  I put up a problem, kids work them out alone, then we discuss them together.  I think the turn and talk time will help them practice actually talking to their partner about how to solve the problems.  They will be empty handed, so they can focus on talking about the math instead of arguing about who will be using the marker to write it down.

The second thing I am going to do is create some problems for everyone to solve.  Today we are going to do an activity from The Super Source where partners work together on some describing and listening skills.  One builds a design using no more than pattern blocks. The second partner is not allowed to see this.  The first partner describes the design that was built so the second partner can recreate it.  It’s a tricky exercise for 7 year olds, believe it or not.  Positional language,  attributes of geometric shapes, and expanding on one’s own words are all practiced.  I find that the person describing often reverts to giving directions such as “get a triangle and put it on top of the square…no that way…no that way…no down…YES!”    The other problems are going to involve some addition, maybe some subtraction and will be put in a context they can work with.

The final thing I really need to work on is how to respectfully disagree, and how to accept that “No, I don’t think so” isn’t the same as “I hate your guts and will never speak to you again!”  It’s a hard one, but necessary.

I had initially planned for next week to be the start of my next unit.  But I’m feeling better about this plan of action.  It’s going to help us have a smoother run through the unit, and it is going too help me set up the Math Workshop groups we’ll need during the unit.

Geometry, math, Math Workshop, Number Talks

Real Geoboards vs. Virtual Geoboards

This past week we’ve been doing some geometry work in class.  The grade 2 curriculum expectations for geometry are fairly simple:  name, sort and make 2D and 3D shapes.  In general, children arrive in grade 2 already knowing most of these.  The more common the shapes are in the natural environment, the more likely this is true.  Octagon and hexagon usually give everyone a hard time with their tricky names, but by the end of grade 2 few children can’t recall these names.  In grade 3, we have to do a few more things. The vocabulary is increased (quadrilateral, angles) but again other than folding and unfolding nets of 3D solids, it’s nothing too complex.  Of course, I say that from this point of view – some kids do find it a bit tricky.  In all, however, it’s about 1 week’s worth of expectations.  I like to teach them early on because there are a lot of problem solving opportunities that can involve geometry and once we have the vocabulary learned the problem solving comes more easily.

This week I had rubber bands on hand.  That’s not actually something that happens all the time.  Since we had them, I pulled out the old geoboards.  Lack of rubber bands is actually one of the main reasons I don’t always pull them out.  The virtual geoboards, available here, here and here, are so much more reliable.  And nobody can shoot a virtual geoband across the room at somebody.

In the activity shown below, our Friday lesson, students were asked to make some shapes according to a rule.  Then their classmates had to figure out the rule.  Was the rule: shapes that have 3 sides?  Shapes with 4 corners?  Shapes I enjoy making because they create cool patterns? Here are some of our results:

A few years ago I remember reading an article about how important it is for students to have a real experience with a manipulative before they move to the virtual version.  I tried to find that this morning and couldn’t.  My brain doesn’t remember the source!  So I put it out to my virtual PLN (Professional Learning Network) on Twitter, and found a lot of teachers agreeing with my thinking. Reflecting on our week today, I was so glad that I had used the real geoboards.  There was some really interesting stuff that happened.

First, students were making shapes of different sizes over and over in different ways.  On the apps, they tend to get busy playing with other tools – like changing the colour of their geobands, or colouring the shapes in with a variety of colours.  They get focused on the wrong things and come up with rules like:  Shapes that are orange.  And I’m sorry, but orange is not a geometric attribute.

Second, I noticed that some children were struggling to stretch the bands across the pegs.  Some of the rubber bands are smaller than others, so this became a problem solving challenge.  I feel like they were motivated by the task to work through the challenge and find a new rubber band or change the perimeter of their shape.  This simply doesn’t present as a challenge to be worked through in the virtual environment. I had forgotten about this part!  Developing learning skills needs to be embedded in every part of our day, and I’m glad they got this chance to work on some problem solving skills.

Finally, there were some social things that we could work on.  Sharing is always an issue for 6 and 7-year-olds. They had to cooperate and collaborate to share the rubber bands on their table, and to decide who would get which geoboard.  I tried to make sure that every board at least matched the other boards in a group, but I didn’t always make that happen.  Again, students had to talk through this because everyone wants the one that is different, and therefore special.

Now that we have spent some time with the geoboards,  they can become one of the activities students can do during a Math Workshop session.   I can put them on a table with some task cards, or the students can request them to help solve a problem.  When we move on to perimeter and area (after we spend some time working with number lines for the next 3 weeks!) I can incorporate questions about shapes and feel confident that everyone knows the shape, and can work with the shape.  And I can add some