More Clothesline Math

I’m having a bit of a hard time shutting work down for the Christmas break, so I thought I would see if I could make up these other primary clothesline cards that I have been pondering.

They are a bit addictive… as I make more cards, I keep thinking about more cards I could make…

This set has benchmarks of 0, 5, 10, 15, 20, and then uses ten frames and dominoes.  I added the numbers from 11-20 with the ten frames and then mixed them up to make addition cards with the ten frames.  I did all the make tens and the doubles and some random other combinations.  The dominoes have all the doubles and all the make tens and then some near doubles and some other random combinations…

Does anyone want to try them out?  I have no printer at home, so can’t test with my own kiddos and we are on holidays until January now (woohoo!).  If you have a chance to try them, I’d love to hear how it goes!  Feedback and suggestions welcome 🙂

See my original post about primary clothesline cards here.

Download the original primary clothesline cards here.

Download the new card set here.




Investigations with Number Talks

Our last *sniff, sniff* book club meeting was held this week.  We are so appreciative of the teachers who signed up to participate with us.  We are so grateful for the rich and thoughtful conversations and collaborative trouble-shooting that went along with our study of Making Number Talks Matter.  We really believe that professional learning is so much better with colleagues and that setting aside time for professional learning is great for our students, but also helps us (as teachers) stay excited about our work on a day-to-day basis.

This week, we looked at Chapter 9 – Investigations.

We started our meeting with our usual check-in about how Number Talks have been going in the classroom.  It sounds like most people have established a good routine with Number Talks.  Some folks are taking a short break and shifting focus but planning to come back to Number Talks in the New Year.   We did some trouble-shooting discussion about how to deal with students who offer silly answers or make up strange answers that don’t relate to the question posed.  We talked about using phrases that help the student connect their answer with the question (can you explain to me where in the question you got the numbers that you are using in your strategy?).  We also talked about moving on from a student who is having trouble explaining his/her thinking clearly with a statement like: I’m having a hard time understanding your explanation and I would like us both to think about it some more – can I check in with you about your strategy after the number talk is over?

Next, we talked about our BIG IDEAS for the day:


And outlined how to do an investigation:


We then delved into exploring the multiplication strategy of halving and doubling using the general procedure for an investigation.  We started with the question 8 x 26 to try to elicit the strategy of doubling and halving.  Once we looked at all the suggested strategies, we focused in on doubling and halving and talked about the big question of “Does it always work?”  The group split up into partnerships to explore this question – we provided graph paper, colour tiles, rulers, paper and scissors and then circulated to try to see how the investigation went.

It was interesting to note that it is really difficult to be a skeptic in Math – the strategy might make sense to us, but actually thinking about what it takes to PROVE that it works requires much more depth to our thinking.  Many groups got started by discussing WHEN it would be good to use this strategy (ie. what circumstances/numbers make it an efficient strategy).  Some groups explored odd vs. even numbers, some explored big and small numbers, some tried to delve into fractions to see if it worked there.  Some groups worked with the colour tiles to make arrays and others used the graph paper to show the strategy visually.

Then, we wrapped up with a discussion – different groups shared their approaches and it was interesting to note how varied the ideas were.  We looked briefly at the questions offered in the book to guide small group work for this investigation:

  • Will it only work with even numbers?
  • What would happen if, instead of halving, you took a third of one factor?
  • Can you represent this strategy visually/geometrically?
  • What generalizations can you make?
  • Would this work for division?

We had hoped to have time to also have teachers choose another investigation: either the same difference strategy for subtraction or the halving-halving strategy for division, but we ran out of time.  I think participating in an investigation was really valuable.  I enjoyed seeing how much mathematical thinking (curricular competencies) is involved in this type of activity.  Of note – mathematical investigations take time, and it is worth setting aside some time to do activities like this in class.

Once again, a HUGE thank-you to our teachers who participated!  We will be running some more after school PD for intermediate math teachers in the New Year – likely a Mathematical Mindsets book study at some point – so keep an eye on your email in January for information on how to join in.

NWMC 2015 – the Recap

Earlier this year, I was hired as a District Math Liaison.  I have always loved Math and I love teaching Math and this opportunity seemed like a great way to improve my own teaching and to have some time to explore some of the things in Math instruction that I never seem to have time to get to in my own classroom.  After being hired, I had a moment (well, several moments) of panic – did I really have enough knowledge and experience to be able to help and mentor other teachers?

In one of these panic moments, I thought it would be a great idea to search around for some Math-related Professional Development opportunities.  I had heard of the BC Association of Mathematics Teachers (BCAMT) before and that seemed like a logical place to start – so I went online and discovered the NorthWest Math conference.  It sounded like a good fit, so I applied for funding to go and was approved.

Over the course of the weekend, I had the opportunity to attend some really thought-provoking sessions that had me thinking hard about my own Math instruction and how I can best support teachers who have questions about Math in their classrooms.  I left with many great activities to try and also more questions and ideas to ponder.

So here are 3 of the big takeaway ideas that the conference got me thinking about:

  1. The number one question that I have been asked this fall as a Math Liaison is (can you guess?): “How do I get my kids to learn their basic facts?”  I have used strategy-based instruction in my (Grade 4/5) classroom for many years and I still find that there are always (at least) a handful of kids that never really get confident or fluent with their basic facts.  This conference really got me thinking of this question in the context of number sense in general.  I wonder… Are my students who continue to struggle with their basic facts (even after learning strategies) really struggling with poor number sense in general? How can I build in more opportunities for my students to develop number sense and flexibility with numbers? This is something I will continue to think about and explore with my students…
  2. Literacy-Math connection.  This is a topic that is fascinating to me – especially as a teacher in an inner city school.  Many of my Grade 4/5 students struggle with reading and this presents interesting challenges in math as well.  I also know that students everywhere struggle to navigate word problems successfully – they just want to “do something” to the numbers instead of trying to understand what the question is asking.  The conference left me with some great ideas of how to try to bridge the gap between Math and literacy that I will try in my class this year (and hopefully share here).
  3. Questioning.  It is sometimes difficult to really figure out what students know and how deeply they really understand the concepts that are presented.  I went to an excellent session on using open-ended questions with students to find out where they are at and try to push their thinking further.  In addition to using these question stems, I am also trying to switch up my assessment to try to ask more communicating and open-ended questions that require students to share their thinking.

I had no idea that the NWMC would be so big and well-organized and inspiring – I was expecting a much smaller affair with more local presenters.  But, what an amazing conference!  I feel very fortunate that I applied for funding and was able to attend on a year that this conference was held in BC.  Many thanks to the organizers who put on such a great event!