Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Making and Playing Math with Kids: Day One

This was Day One of hopefully many more in which I get to play and make math with kids while simultaneously fulfilling my parent volunteer hours in my daughter's 3rd/4th grade classroom.

Group #1 | 20 minutes

"So, here's something.  Math isn't just about numbers, it's about finding patterns. If you get one rod of each color I wonder what kinds of patterns you'll find?"

"Can you describe what you made?"
"Well, the underneath one goes biggest to smallest and so I reversed it on the top."

"How many whites make a red?
"So, if white is worth one, how much is green?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, if red is two whites, and you add another white, how many is that?"
"Oh! Three! Green is three!"

"What kinds of patterns or designs can we make using only the first five rods: white, red, green purple, yellow?"

"Your design looks like it's the same on both sides. Can you tell me more about how you made it?"
"Well, I started in the middle and built out."

"Hey everyone, come here! What do you notice about the pattern that is showing up on this design?" 
"I see those white blocks in every corner."
"How do you describe that line running from corner to corner?"

"Okay, one minute left. Time to clean up!"
"Awww...I just gotta put down one more block..."

What's awesome is that these designs were made by the kids whose relationships with written numerals are not happy ones and yet, it's not for a lack of ability in noticing patterns or structure.  At the end of this session they all left with smiles on their faces, saying "That was fun!" We will continue with colorful and visual math because it's fun and I am fairly confident that this process, in the end, can be helpful in shoring up that bridge between mathematical meaning and symbols/abstraction.  p.s. This bin of Cuisenaire rods is now on their game shelf for free-time play with the following label:

Group #2 | 20 minutes

Group #2 came in buzzing. Their teacher had given them the two different multiplication charts I had laminated for every student and they couldn't stop talking about the archetype times tables from crebobby.com.  (See my post Marvelously Math-y Mondays for all the details and links).

When they settled down I ran them through a slow game of Speed! which is a super fun game created by Highhill Homeschool. I'll write about it more later but my biggest observation was that just because kids know how to skip count, doesn't necessarily mean they can quickly think "4 more" or "4 less" than any number in that sequence. This game seems to support more flexible thinking about multiples and is now on their free-time activity shelf as well.  As a group they had experience with 2- through 5-speed but I hope they will persevere into the higher numbers. If not, I'll make something happen the next time we meet. Yay for challenges!

Back in the classroom, I guess the enthusiasm for the archetype times tables had become unbearable and their teacher had to hand out the 'make your own' sheets I created.  His biggest goal/hope, I think, was for them to become more familiar with how a grid works in combining/multiplying numbers.

I think this make-your-own thing might have helped a lot in terms of learning to track rows and columns!

Energy and enthusiasm during math time! It makes a heart glad.


  1. We have been using Cuisenaire Rods this year too and I've been searching for ways to use them. I'm glad the kids are enjoying the game Speed!

  2. How cool is that! I want to volunteer this year in the classroom too and want to see what I will be able to do beyond the curriculum...


Thanks for reading. I would love to hear your thoughts and comments!


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