Saturday, March 14, 2015

Makin' it Math Mid-Month Linky -- March

Good day!  Thanks for stopping by for our Makin' it Math mid-month linky!

Wanted to share a few things that have been going on in the classroom and a few made-it to go with them...

First, we just had open house this past week and I asked my kids to reflect on their learning thus far this year with a "Glow & Grow". This is something that can be done any time during the school year.  Students simply write something they are able to do well after all of their hard work and help, and they write about something with continued effort is an area they will "grow"/improve. Loved to see some of the students' reflections about math!  Feel free to download a copy to use with your students.

Second, we explored fractions with pizzas this week.  I purchased Amy Lemons' Pizza Fractions and adapted it for my students.  We used all of the toppings and pizza template divided into fourths and added four toppings to cover one fourth, one half, three fourths, and the whole pizza.  Students began by choosing a topping to use on the whole.  Then a topping to use only on a fourth, on half, and finally three fourths.  Afterward, they completed the sheet shown below.  This really tested their understanding of equal-sized shares of a whole and how to represent fractions by adding toppings accordingly.  Not to mention, it was fun!  You can use the sheet I created with other pizza fraction activities, so snag it if you like.

Lastly, we explored fractions with foods (faux foods) this week in guided math groups.  Students are developing a solid understanding of fractions at the second grade level and LOVED using the foods.  I shared this made-it in a previous post, but I decided to share it again here.  So many possibilities for using these gems, so you will want to download them!

Hope you find this month's made-it useful!  Have a blog and want to share your math-made its in a post? We would love to have you link up below!

All the best for the coming week--

Saturday, March 7, 2015

2nd Grade Masterpieces: Art with Fractions

Happy Saturday! I just wanted to share something my kids did this week that turned out fabulously.  Even though it was a last minute idea, the kids created some wonderful masterpieces, learned about fractions, and had a lot of fun.  So easy!

Every year we explore fractions by folding wholes into parts (halves, thirds, and fourths) and talk about how each part represents a share of the whole, begin to use the language of fractions (halves, thirds, and fourths), and learn that two halves make up one whole (thirds and fourths as well).  I decided to do this with my kids on Thursday and go a step further and use their folded wholes to create a piece of art.  Below are directions, if you are interested in trying this with your students... 

2nd Grade Fraction Masterpieces

Materials Needed:

  • 4.5" square pieces of black construction paper, 4 for each student
  • oil pastels
  • 11" OR 11.5" square pieces of black paper (for mounting squares--depending on how much space you ant between and bordering the folded squares.  I used 11" square pieces for mounting.

Step-by-Step Directions:

  1. Give each student four, 4.5" square black pieces of construction paper.  Have students set one sheet on the corner of their desks.  This piece will not get folded and represents a whole that has not been divided into parts.
  2. Have students fold the next piece from corner to corner (in half).  They may fold it to create two rectangular parts or two triangular parts.  Talks about the number of parts show after folding and opening the paper.  This piece represents a whole divided into two parts, into halves.
  3. Have students fold the next piece to create three parts.  You may want to mark this piece for students where the 1/3 fold will be and demonstrate folding.  Talk about the number of parts shown after folding and opening the paper.  This piece represents a whole divided into three parts, into thirds.
  4. Finally, have students fold the last piece to create four parts. They may fold it to create four square parts, four rectangular parts, or four triangular parts.  Talk about the number of parts shown after folding and opening the paper. This piece represents a whole divided into four parts, into fourths.
  5. Then students use the fold lines to help guide them in coloring the parts of each piece different colors.  Oils pastels work best because they do not smear like chalk pastels and the colors really pop on black paper. 


  • Fold each 11" or 11.5" square piece of black paper into fourths.  
  • Use double stick tape to mount each student's four pieces to the black paper, starting with the unfolded whole and ending with the whole divided into fourths.
  • The fold lines will help guide you in mounting the squares an equal distance apart (from the fold lines).


AND, you will have engaged your students in an understanding of the following Common Core Standard for Mathematics:
Partition (circles and) rectangles into two, three, or four equal shares, describe the shares using the words halves, thirds, half of, a third of, etc., and describe the whole as two halves, three thirds, four fourths. Recognize that equal shares of identical wholes need not have the same shape.

I can also see this same project done with wholes divided into more parts in addition to those shown (sixths and eighths).  If you decide to try this project, I would love to hear how it turned out and what your kids thought of the experience.

Can't wait for the kids to surprise their parents with their masterpieces at open house this coming week and listen to what they tell their parents. Anticipating a lot of wonderful math talk!

Enjoy the rest of your weekend and the week ahead---

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Q&A with Sherry Parrish!

We are thrilled to have a wonderful Q&A for you today!  Sherry Parrish, the author of Number Talks, graciously agreed to do a question and answer session with our followers.  We hope you will take the time to absorb her thoughts and suggestion for using Number Talks in your classroom/building.  If you are not familiar with Sherry's outstanding book, or have just happened upon our blog today, feel free to visit our Number Talks Book Study Archive. Many thanks go out to Sherry!

What suggestions do you have for the implementation of number talks as a building?  Steps for beginning? Unforeseen obstacles? General suggestions?
One key element that determines whether or not the implementation of Number Talks is successful or not is the intentionality and purposefulness from the school’s administration. If the administration believes in the value and impact Number Talks can have upon their students and they make sure there are support systems in place, then I find the implementation of Number Talks is successful.  Placing an emphasis on Number Talks during grade-level meetings, vertical teaming, etc., helps build capacity in this area.  Share successes during faculty meetings, grade-level teams, etc.

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of starting small to allow students and teachers an opportunity to establish protocols for respectful conversations and the expectation that mathematics should make sense.  Beginning with dot cards for all grade levels, basic facts before moving into higher computation, etc., allows the routines of a Number Talk to be established.

It is also helpful to frame computation problems in a brief context so that the numbers can be anchored to specific situations.  For example, instead of posting 13 – 7 as a bare problem, we could frame it in a story such as I want to read 13 pages each night.  I have read 7 pages.  How many more pages do I need to read?  The context supports the reasoning and can also influence specific strategies.

Another critical area that is often overlooked is the importance of educating our parents and providing support for them as they look at mathematics from a different framework.  Invite parents to visit your classrooms or host a grade-level open house with a Number Talk demonstration.  Send out a podcast of a classroom Number Talk or tweet a link to a video clip with student strategies.  I have found that when parents see that their children can arrive at an answer faster than they can, they are sold!

Finally, the biggest misunderstanding I see with Number Talks is that educators believe they must directly teach the strategies in the Number Talk book. While my book lists numerous strategies for each operation, the strategies are there to provide a support for teachers so they can anticipate possible ideas that will arise during the Number Talk.  A Number Talk is designed to use purposeful problems that allow students to use numerical relationship to “invent” their own strategies. In fact, the strategies in my book were ones I learned from my students and not ones I taught them!

Do you ever use number talks with missing addends?
While you certainly could do this, I think a much better way to approach this is through subtraction.  If students understand that subtraction is about finding the distance between 2 quantities, then you typically see them add up to subtract.  For example, if my Number Talk problem was 50 – 26 and a student added up to find the difference, I could record this as 26 + ____ = 50.  This is a perfect way to address our standard that focuses on students using the relationship between operations.

I teach fifth grade, and I have not used number talks.  None of my colleagues before me have used number talks.  Where do I begin?
The higher up we go in grade levels, the stronger the likelihood of students saying, “no thank you,” to mathematics.  Many students enter the upper grades without confidence or reasoning; often their only access is memorized procedures that they do not understand.  For this reason, I suggest beginning with dot images that are found in the K-2 section of my book.  While your purposes for using these are not the same as a K-2 teacher, there are many benefits for using these as a starting point in the upper grades.
  • It is difficult to be threatened by a collection of dots! Students begin to relax and realize that mathematics is about making sense and reasoning.  Confidence begins to grow when students are successful.
  • Students begin to see there are multiple ways to arrive at the same answer.  This is such an important disposition to build with students, especially with those that have had difficulty memorizing one way.
  • Starting with something as simple as a dot card allows the teacher to begin building norms for productive discourse. 
The next transition in your Number Talks is to move into Talks that focus on basic facts.  I repeatedly hear from teachers all over the country that students don’t know their basic facts; yet, I find that we often resort to repeating the same skill and drill instruction with timed test while expecting different results.  By using either isolated “facts” or a Number Talk string around facts, we can provide a safe place to begin computation conversations while building strategies.  The same strategies that work for fact acquisition also work for larger computation problems - so time spent here is not wasted.

What projects/publications, if any, do you have in the works?
I am currently working on a new Number Talk book that focuses on fractions, decimals, and percents.  The manuscript is already complete, and we will begin videotaping in classrooms late March and into April. During the field testing of the fraction Number Talk strings, it has been rewarding to see how students are developing strong fractional reasoning.  The book and DVD should be released in spring, 2016, during the NCTM/NCSM conference in San Francisco.  

Thanks so much for stopping by today, and thanks again to Sherry Parrish!

All the best--


Sunday, March 1, 2015

Read Across America Math Fun!

Good day to you!  Just wanted to share some goodies with you for celebrating Read Across America.  Please feel free to download my Celebrating Read Across America Math Games and "Which Dr. Seuss book is your favorite?" GraphingBoth are great for use as guided math workstations/centers!
The graphing activity comes with blank pages for choosing your own titles, and various graphing sheets are included as well. Enjoy!

ALSO--we would like to announce that we will be posting Sherry Parrish's Q&A this coming Wednesday.  We hope you will stop back to read her thoughts and suggestions about using number talks.

Until Wednesday...