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Lesson Ideas

Your Kids Aren’t Learning Addition Facts? Try This…(Part 2)

So, once the kids have learned the initial easy facts like I posted about before (+1, +10, and +9), I focus on getting them to learn their bonds of ten.  Now since we had already learned the +1 and +9 facts, I focus on these foundational facts to help us build other facts later on.  Most often kids know that 5 +5 makes 10 because they have 5 fingers on one hand and 5 fingers on the other hand to make 10 fingers.  After we talk about these, I make them practice these other three facts over and over (4+6, 3 +7, and 2+8) by writing them and saying them.  I don’t let them participate in any other activities in my group time until they can tell me these three facts that make ten.


I give them these facts to practice for homework as well before we use them as a foundation for anything else because I want them to be solid in this.

Then I leave the bonds of ten facts for a little while to practice the +2 facts.  These are easy.  All the while we are recalling what makes 10 often (in review) to keep these facts fresh in their mind.  After the kids see the number facts with the answers that are adding 2, I ask the students how they can always find the answer to a +2 fact easily.  Sometimes I write the +1 facts right beside the +2 facts to prompt their thinking.  Eventually they tell me that you just count 2 more numbers to get the sum/answer.

Slide1 More to come…

*Thank you Erin Cobb: Frames courtesy of Lovin’Lit.

Do You Need Some More Math Activities for Math Night?

Take a look at these exciting photos of our recent Family Math Night.  Originally we had scheduled Family Math Night on the 100th Day of school to build more momentum for the event, but we had to reschedule Math Night due to weather.  I’m mainly including activities that we hadn’t done before, and I will include links to former math nights so you can get even MORE ideas!

To start, tables with parent information were set up in the hallway.  The more inviting and fun student tables were set up inside the cafeteria.

Since many parents are unfamiliar with ten frames (I had never heard of them until I had started teaching), we had a table informing them of how ten frames work.



Then we had an information table showing the parents of 2nd and 3rd graders addition and subtraction strategies.  Parents even had an opportunity to see how base ten blocks were used to do regrouping.




Here is a station explaining to parents how Reflex Math works.  We had a laptop set up to show parents Reflex Math from a kid’s perspective.MathNight2014Blog-43

One teacher put together game packets for parents to play math games with their children at home.



Now it’s time for the fun stuff!

Below you will see beach balls with math facts written all over them using Sharpie permanent markers.  When someone catches the ball, the right thumb’s landing spot determines the math fact that must be answered.   We had large beach balls for the kids to play with and small ones for them to take home.  We ordered the beach balls from Oriental Trading Company.


MathNight2014Blog-1 copy

How many books will it take for YOU to weigh 100 pounds?  That is the question that students had to answer when they stopped at this station.  Students estimated how many heavy encyclopedias it would take for them to weigh 100 pounds.  Having experiences with measurement is the best way for students to make reasonable estimates with measurement.



Uh-oh!  Looks like he picked up too many books, but he’s close!

Fractions beckoned to students’ interests under the guise of a messy pudding party.  Students had to measure out two cups of milk without using a 1 cup measuring cup.  They had to use ½, ⅓, or ¼  measuring cup .  Doing so made them repeat these measurements until they had milk equivalent to 2 cups.MathNight2014Blog-4

What is Math Night without estimation stations?


I have done estimation stations every year we have had Math Night, but I wanted to do a little something different this year.

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Instead of just having the estimation jar, ziploc baggies were placed in front of the jars with 10 of the candy item inside.  This helped students make more precise estimates.  I also had a wild idea about gluing base ten blocks together to see who could come the closest to estimating the total of the blocks in a base ten tower.


How many are in this base ten structure?  Can you guess?

(above) I know the tower looks more like the leaning tower of Pisa than anything of mathematical value–it looks like a hot mess–a hot glue gun mess ;).   What can I say…I think I should pose like one of Charlie’s Angels with my hot glue gun!

(below) Making 10 groups of 10 was a kid favorite last year and remained a kid favorite this year.  Kids took small food items and grouped them on a mat.  They got to eat their 10 groups of 10/100 items when they had filled up their mat! Yummy!




(below) Where did Freddy the Frog land on the hundred’s chart?  These kids played Toss and Guess, a game with a giant hundreds chart grid and a beanbag–in this case a bean bag frog.  The idea for the grid and the Toss and Guess game came from The Learning Carpet.  Kids received prizes when they guessed where the frog landed correctly.


Below is my absolute favorite booth of all booths!  How many hulas can you hoop?  Students hula hooped until they could hula no more.  Then they counted their hulas and wrote the total of their hulas on a piece of paper.   They stuck this paper to the wall so other students could compete with the highest total.  The two hula hoopers with the greatest number of hulas won a hula hoop!

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The following made the evening worth while.  This parent solved math problems with her Pre-K student.  She helped him count on her fingers!  This embodied the goal of the whole evening–helping parents connect to their children through mathematical thinking!

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 If you liked this post about Math Night, you might also like Math Night from 2012 and 2013…







 I hope these posts inspire you to make your math night fun!

Teaching Coordinate Grids? Try These Great Resources!

A fabulous fifth grade teacher I work with started using these coordinate grid mystery pictures with her class from Super Teacher Worksheets.  She said that her kids who struggled with everything else in math, loved these and were so engaged in finding the coordinates.  There are many different mystery pictures that you have to pay for on their site, but I want to call your attention to a Santa Clause mystery picture that is absolutely free 🙂 especially since this is the week before Christmas!  We all know how kids are the week before Christmas break–ahem–let’s just say they need something super engaging!

Santa Coordinate Graphing Activity from Super Teacher Worksheets


I also just finished revising a coordinate grid activity that I made a while back.  Students must locate buried treasure on a coordinate grid using geometry and graphing terms.  Our fifth graders are enjoying this activity right now, too!  This activity packet is available on TeachersPayTeachers.

Buried Treasure1

Social studies can be discussed with this activity since the grid has a map behind it.  I like to discuss coordinate graphing on the same days I am teaching map skills in social studies because the two are so similar.  This activity doesn’t explicitly teach social studies, but there is definitely room for some discussion about the maps and what part (or state) the treasure is probably in.

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Save Time Teaching Time! (and two freebies!)

I have to share what I have been working on with you all!  I have been working at home on this for months.  I finally finished my Telling Clock Time Lesson Plans and Activities Unit!  I’ve been putting together all of the lessons I have used to teach time that have been tried by the fire of struggling learners.  I will have to say by far it is the best thing I have posted on Teachers Pay Teachers yet!  This is definitely the product for you if you are busy and teaching 2nd or 3rd graders about time.


Many of the lessons have links to videos or book suggestions…

Lesson Plan Time Unit

There are 3 differentiated levels of small time booklets for students to fill out.  There are lots of other differentiated lessons, too!

Clock Booklet

To teach elapsed time, there are directions for building a linear clock.  You can read more about the linear clock here.

There are card sorts, games, and center activities.  This card sort is a freebie!

A.M. P.M. Card Sort

AM PM Sort Blog Freebie

There are suggestions of ways to teach that will help steer students away from misconceptions about clock time.  


And there are clock labels for your classroom clock…

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Clock Labels Freebie

And so much more!




And that’s not even all that’s included!

You can find out more about the time unit here.

I am putting this unit on sale for two days–Monday, November 11th through Tuesday, November 12th–at half price…so scoop it up while the sale lasts!


Have You Taught Multi Digit Even and Odd Numbers Like This?

I thought I KNEW how to teach even and odd numbers until I saw this!  Knowing that our third graders always miss the simple skill of even and odd numbers with two and three digits, I thought I would target this misconception.  I told them that even numbers have partners and odd numbers have a lonely someone left out.  To teach even and odd numbers,I asked if several small numbers like 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 were even or odd and drew pictures of counters to ask if they had a partner.  With this idea, I asked if 227 was even or odd.  I told the kids to write this down on a scrap of paper and cover it over with their hand so no one could see what they wrote.  The teacher and I surveyed the room as kids secretly moved their hand.  Just about half of the class thought it was even and half thought it was odd.  Thinking of the 8 Mathematical Practices, I didn’t want to spill the beans.  I wanted the students to really think about whether this number would come out with an even number of partners.  I told them to start drawing 227 counters on their paper to see if each counter would come out with a partner.  I knew this could be a tedious task, but to my astonishment,  I saw a few kids actually drawing base ten blocks….WOW!  I couldn’t believe they had thought of this.  I had never thought of drawing base ten blocks!!!  

Even and Odd with Base Ten Illustrations


This student started drawing counters but when he realized this would take way too long, he drew base ten blocks.


This is my favorite illustration of student work because the student drew the place value chart and plainly matched up each block with a partner

Through all of their work building numbers in second grade, they were so comfortable and flexible with base ten blocks, they actually saw them as tools!!  After we did this little exercise, which took about 15 minutes, we resurveyed the class and only 3 of the 25 students still thought the number was even.  Success through taking the time for students thinking!

How Do you Teach Regrouping with Understanding?

If kids aren’t building with base ten blocks to add and problem solve FOR WEEKS initially, they will get no where with their number sense understanding for regrouping.  Under common core standards, we are heading towards the understanding of the traditional algorithm in the 4th grade standard–not just being quick at a procedure of crossing out numbers and writing new ones above them.  Mistakenly 2 years ago we tried to rush the traditional algorithm with our second graders.  As a result they are still struggling with this in 4th grade. So here is the success story of what we did in second grade last year.  Nearing the end of the year, there were several skills that hadn’t been taught to the degree that they needed to be such as geometry etc.  I knew without the foundation of addition, counting, and problem solving we would be up against a wall again in 3rd grade, so we focused on these skills.  Throughout the year we spent a lot of time filling out number charts and discussing pattens on the hundreds chart above 100 using these:


Counting you ask?  Yes, we spent time counting and looking at patterns in numbers.  I know it is in the standard so that is part of why we counted, but counting is so much more important than teaching because it is the standard.  How can students reason about whether their answer makes sense if they can’t count?  Reasoning about math is in the mathematical practices several times.  Students who can’t count, can’t estimate and can’t round because they have NO idea about where the number comes in the whole sequence of numbers.

Second graders last year solved a CGI word problem each day while they were learning addition and subtraction.  Students spent several weeks using base ten blocks to solve their addition and subtraction regrouping problems.  When students weren’t permitted to use the actual blocks, we prompted them to draw illustrations of the blocks to help them solve their problems.  Even after students were shown how the traditional algorithm worked with their blocks, most of them tended towards drawing a picture of the blocks to solve the problem.  Most were successful doing this.  I was satisfied with this progress because I knew in 3rd and 4th grade that they would again have an opportunity to learn the traditional algorithm and other addition/subtraction strategies.

So here is how we are beginning with the kiddos in 3rd and 4th grades this year to teach addition regrouping.  The kids are still given the opportunity to use blocks if needed to formulate understanding.  Now I know that in showing them how to regroup the kids aren’t really “discovering” or “constructing” the algorithm themselves, but they are gaining an understanding.  I just don’t think we have enough time in the year for the kids to discover everything and they must be shown some things.  I haven’t arrived at that place yet where I think in CGI utopia…maybe I will get there someday??  (Don’t get me wrong, I find value in CGI)  For right now the kids are getting this method of teaching addition regrouping and making sense of it.  I’m happy and the kids are learning.

Traditional Algorithm Behind the Scenes

Now what I’m about to show you is the students’ first experience with regrouping like is pictured above.  It isn’t cute at all…not worthy of for sale anywhere…but it is real and handwritten.  To make it on a handwritten page was just so much faster than doing it on computer so it is what it is.  I wanted to create columns so the students wouldn’t get their numbers confused.  This worked well.  I didn’t have the kids put pluses between the numbers like true expanded form to keep them from confusion later on when we do subtraction regrouping similar to this.

We discovered that students had a difficult time in the hundreds column when they had a number regroup to the thousands place.  They weren’t used to putting two numbers together that weren’t zeros so this seemed to confuse them.  If we had three digit adding to do over, we would have the kids include a thousands column so that they could regroup their thousands there at first until they made the connection that they could put two digits other than zeros in the left hand column.  In other words, we would have them add one column more than the number of digits that there were in the number.  For example…

Later on last week, we taught the kids to regroup without the columns drawn and without the numbers being decomposed into hundreds, tens, and ones.  We continued to have the kids draw the arrows and to estimate their answer.  It was rocky at first and about half of the class got regrouping with numbers written in standard form (just normal).    They will be working on regrouping again early next week.

How Big is Your Kiss?

I know no one is probably looking for Valentine’s Day lessons yet, but I redid my cute little Valentine lesson “How Big Is Your Kiss”.  This will be my momentous tribute 🙂 to working over the Christmas break.   This is my favorite lesson to do at Valentine’s Day.  Kids kiss a piece of grid paper with Vaseline on their lips, and then measure their kiss.  This looks SO cute, too, when you hang it in the hallway with all of your kids lip prints.  See the lesson below.



Are Your Students Mixing Up the Hour When Telling Time? Try This

Yesterday, I modeled a lesson in a second grade classroom for students who were struggling with telling time to the nearest 5 minute intervals.  Students had the classic problem with telling time.  When the hour hand was close to the next hour students mistakenly wrote the hour an hour ahead.  For example, when students read the time 8:55, they would write 9:55 instead because the hour hand nearly touched the 9.  To alleviate this confusion I used and adapted the idea from the free Georgia Curriculum resources (page 57).  Unlike the clock instructions in the Georgia resources,  I used sentence strips which I cut up, and paper clips which I threaded through the holes.  I ran out of brads, so I used what was available.

To begin my lesson on time, I stretched out the clock on sentence strips in a linear fashion.  Then I held my hour hand clock arrow under the numbers and moved it along and asked students what hour it was.  I explained to students that until the arrow point was directly on  the next number AND in this case color, that the previous number still remained the hour.  Students proved to be more successful in telling time on an analog clock after this discussion.

Then after the discussion with the linear clock  using the hour hand, I had several student helpers  hold the clock in a circle so that they could see how the linear clock compared to the round clock on the wall.  I repeated my questioning holding the hour hand  in between the numbers and asking them what hour was being shown.

Need Activities to Teach Counting?

I was so excited to get these unifix books that I ordered.  With there being a shortage of counting activities in our regular kindergarten textbook, I was eager to find more.  These simple and practical books for kindergarten and first grade offer several counting activities like the following:

  • Shapes that students cover with cubes to see how many cubes will fill the shape.  Students count the number of cubes that fill the shape.
  • Cards with a different number of shapes on them that students match to numbers cards.
  • Number cards to match to plastic baggies with cubes in them.
  • Games like “First to Fifty” in which students spin a number spinner to draw a certain amount of cubes to cover a board.  Students can count how many they have left to cover.


 There are some other good number sense activities included also.  These are available at Didax for $13.95.


Decimal Number Line: Project Completed

I am posting a follow up of the lesson I co-taught with a fifth grade teacher.   The earlier post shows the number line that I made for students to model their number line after.  I had planned to have students do a different section of hundredths so that we would have a large number line from 0 to 1 tenth compiled of different students’ number lines.  I decided not to have them do different numbers than I had shown on my own number line because I saw that students were struggling with the idea of counting by thousandths in discussion before they did the task.  The whole project took about 2 days for almost all students to finish.  Below I have pictured two of the  students’ number lines that turned out well.  None of the groups quite had time to write the midpoint between two different hundredths like I have in blue….five thousandths, fifteen thousandths, twenty-five thousandths etc.  Even though students muddled through this and had a difficult time getting started, I would do this lesson over again.  I probably would spend more time examining decimal number charts first so that students would more quickly recognize number patterns to write them on a number line.  To save yourself some time if you want to build these number lines see the measurements I used in my earlier post.

Student Decimal Number Lines Counting by 1 thousandths to 1 tenth


Teacher Decimal Number Line

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