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Summertime Math Conversations

A friend and I had a wonderful opportunity to spend a day with a wonderful group of teachers who work with kids, kindergarten through grade 2. Our day was organized around three main points: developing understanding of the Standards of Mathematical Practice and what that might look like in our daily work with kids; getting organized as we begin to use a new math program; and building confidence in adjusting tasks and lessons to meet our kids’ at their current levels of mathematical thinking, reasoning, and understanding.

The mid-morning grade level conversations were organized around a game from Jamee Petersen’s book Math Games for Independent Practice. This created an opportunity to explore the impact and power of the instructional practice of creating a variety of games/tasks/activities around a specific mathematical concept, idea, or strategy.

We asked everyone to play the game Build Ten. The goal of the game is to provide an opportunity to explore the part-part-whole relationships inherent to the number 10. The game is played in groups of 2. Each pair needs a regular die-with the numbers 1 through 6, two base-ten rods, 20 base-ten cubes, and 2 work mats. Each child takes a tens rod and sets it down on his/her work mat. Player 1 rolls the die and sets out that many cubes, against the tens rod. Player 2 does the same thing. They keep doing this until one player builds ten. The two players clear their mats and play again.

The teachers all played the game a few times to gain a sense of how the game works, to have an idea of where kids might get stuck or where they might experience some confusion, and to decide what questions to ask and at what point(s) in the game. It also provided an opportunity for the teachers to experiment with how they might introduce the game to their students, what learning and understanding they want their kids gain from playing the game, and how/when/where they might use the game.

The conversation then moved on to when using the game in class what questions might you ask to help you understand how or if your students are developing specific strategies, such as, counting all, counting on, doubles, or make 10.

The final component of the morning was organized around the specific skill of adjusting a task to meet kids’ at their current levels of mathematical thinking, reasoning, and understanding. We set out a bunch of math tools: ten frames, Unifix™ cubes, centimeter cubes, rekenreks, two-color counters, and base-ten blocks. Our directions to the grade level teams were to create a task, game, or activity that offers students another opportunity to develop and use strategies for adding or subtracting whole numbers.

So, what would you choose as your focus if you were to create a new game? What tools and materials would you use? What questions would you focus on as you chatted with your students as they played the new game?

The next post will have some samples of the games and tasks that were created.