## 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.

## I can’t sum up this week in a title

Classes reorganized this past week.  I had a new class list on Monday, and about 1/2 of  my class is new since the first day of school. The dynamic shifted.  Though it wasn’t exactly like starting over, it was enough like starting over that I didn’t feel like I could move forward as quickly as I wanted to.  I decided, therefore, to do activities that would sort of take us back in time to the first week while also moving us forward.

These are three of my first 2 weeks goals that I needed to accomplish in just this past week – the 3rd week:  really work on how to use the manipulatives without driving our teacher bonkers, work on what to do during Number Talk/Number Sting time, and practice working respectfully with a partner.  The friends who stayed with me had already practiced this for 2 weeks so I couldn’t simply start over.  And they didn’t need me to anyway. The friends who moved in had already practiced some of this with their “first 2 weeks” teacher, but we needed to do it the Room 16 way.  I realize that makes it sound like I have some control issues, but I assure you I do not.  Really.  I don’t. Please believe me!

So…here’s what we did.

Find it on the 100 chart: I gave them hundred charts, in groups of two.  I gave them containers full of counters.  I called out clues, from “Find it on the 100 chart”  by Marcie Cook which I have owned for approximately 100 years.  I called out clues, they had to cover the number I clued and in the end the manipulatives would have built a picture.  They had to cooperate with their partner and share turns.  They had to clean everything up, even off the floor, when we finished, and put it all away.

Counting Necklaces:  You’d think they’d be getting tired of this by now.  But they are not.  Not even close.  I’ve written about it before here, so I’m just going to say that we ended our math class with this all week and by the end of the week nobody was getting too upset about not getting a necklace because they realized there would be more turns on another day. Once again we had many opportunities to talk about what patterns we were seeing, and what happens to the pattern if someone leaves the circle to use the washroom or if someone moves to another spot.

Usually by this time on a Saturday morning I have a goal for the following week. In fact, I always start writing my lesson plans by writing my math plans for the week.  I’m not ready today.  We accomplished some good goals for the week, but we needed more repetition to get there.  That means I am not where I wanted to be on my curriculum map.  I’m generally okay with that, but I also think there might be a way to still get there by next Friday as planned.  I’m following the TIPS spiralled math document and even though I know I need to be flexible with the timing, I also want to try to trust the timing.  We’ll come back to all of our content again. I don’t need to teach to mastery the first time for every skill.  I think I’ll move forward with our 100/200 chart puzzles.  I think we’ll move forward with the estimation and counting jars/bags.  I think it’s a 4 day week with no other interruptions so we should be able to do that.  Maybe I am more ready to write my plan than I thought.

## Math at Home

My son, who is in grade 1, has really good number sense.  He has a lot of mental math strategies that he uses efficiently and flexibly.  He adds on, he counts back, he finds landmark numbers, he even splits numbers!  And no, this is not because we spend a bunch of time every day drilling math.  It’s because we play lots of games and have math conversations that pop up throughout our day.

As I watched him play “Sorry” I was surprised that he was having some counting trouble.  He has been able to count in sequential order with one-to-one tagging for quite some time. He can count a variety of object by ones, more than 100, and when he makes a mistake he notices it on his own and fixes it.  He subitizes, and I feel like this what he is doing  while he counts and that his how he notices his own mistakes.  But that’s a tangent I won’t go on right now.

What surprised me as we were playing “Sorry” this week was the trouble he was having  moving his pawn the correct number of spaces on the board.  He recognizes every number in this game, and connects the number symbol with the amount. He’s done this with other games many times, such as when we play other games and he has to compare which of two numbers is larger. (I had a hard time writing that sentence because I kept thinking about how we haven’t played War in a long time!)  When he drew 5, for example, I know he knows that is 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

When he would draw a number he would count to that number as he bounced his pawn around the board, but invariably any time he had a number higher than 3 he would bounce a different number of spaces.  Sometimes he would go fewer than he was allowed, and sometimes he would go farther than he was allowed.  If you draw a 4 in this game, you have to go backward, and he did OK with that but he would count slower than usual, so I built that into my intervention. I told him about the problem.  “Just like when you are counting things, your pawn has to touch each square when you count it.” I started by putting his hand in mine, and making sure that every bounce had his pawn landing in just one box without skipping any boxes.  After several rounds of this, he started doing it on his own.  He would slow down his counting and he’d land in the right spot.

The next day we played again, and the problem resurfaced.  This time I explained the problem to  him, then instead of holding his hand I put a finger on the square as he counted.  If he got ahead of me, or skipped a square, he would recognize this on his own and correct himself (and sometimes his big sister had to butt in and point out his mistake, but that’s a different post altogether!)

The third time we played the game, he needed a verbal reminder, but that was it.  And the fourth time he needed the verbal reminder.  And if we have time to play it again tomorrow, which I hope we will, I expect he’ll need the reminder again, but I’ll wait and see.

This whole thing has surprised me some, mainly because as I said before he knows how to count with one-to-one tagging and has for a while.  So why was he having trouble? This is what I think: there was a little pressure on him this time that isn’t normally there. First, he loves to win and he knew that winning in this game requires getting around the board quickly.  That was a distraction and a stressor when he was trying to count. Second, besides just counting, there was some other thinking that had to happen.  If you land on a square with a triangle you get to slide, and if you land on a square that already has a pawn on it then you say “Sorry!” and bump that pawn back to start, and sometimes I could see that he was making a move with one pawn while also thinking about how maybe he should actually be moving a different pawn to get a better outcome. He’d be in the middle of a move, suddenly stop, put the pawn back where it was and move a different one instead.  Third, …I don’t actually have a third.  I think those two things are enough to explain why he was having some trouble. I did double check to make sure he was wearing his glasses the first time I noticed it, and he was, so we can’t blame the vision.  And his coordination is such that moving a pawn around the board is not a physical difficulty for him.

Counting is such an interesting thing, isn’t it? I feel like I have some new insight into him as a mathematician.  I have since noticed that he also needs reminders to slow down when he is doing calculations.  He also does a better job when it is just me and him and he doesn’t have to worry about his sister butting in with answers. (Are you noticing a theme here?  It’s hard to be the little brother!) Finally, he does a much better job and enjoys the whole thing more when he can do single step problems. I feel like that last part is developmental and will work itself out over time.

My diagnosis is that there is an executive functioning thing going on.  He is using his working memory to do multiple tasks each time he takes a turn, not the least of which is to manage his emotions around the fact that his big sister is always butting in.

I am, of course, thinking about how to help my son with this particular thing.  But what does this look like in a classroom?  I’m thinking it would be useful to sit down with a few of my students and play a round of “Sorry” or “Trouble” or even “Snakes and Ladders” and really play with them.  They do these sort of things sometimes during indoor recess, but if I were to set this as an activity during class it would be so a group of children would be busy while I work on the real math with other kids.

Time to rethink that practice.

## Games

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!