Friday, 12 September 2014

Math Games!

I was so inspired by Abby's post over at The Inspired Apple that I couldn't help but talk about my own favorite math games to use.

Whether I'm working with the whole class, a small group or with struggling learners, I always like to include games. Now don't get the wrong impression - these are not games full of fluff, they are full of content and the students are learning. Bonus: they are having *fun* while learning.

I love using math games when topics are first introduced, to review, and to assess - the trifecta of teaching! The great thing is some of these games can be done with a deck of cards or a few dice and a whiteboard - no extra prep on your part! So let's get to it!

Now I would apologize for the iPhone pictures but . . . I really just think it is my own picture-taking skills that are to blame. I am no photographer. Hand me any camera you'd like, I can't focus or get the lighting right - anyone have any tips?

Another note before we start: I am fully acknowledging that I am not the originator of these games. They have been passed from teacher to teacher for generations - just kidding. But in all seriousness, if anyone does know where or from whom these games originated, please let me know so I can include credit!

The first game is an easy one. Multiplication war. All the students need is a deck of cards - piece of cake! Students play like normal war - split the deck, pull a card, but the first student to say the correct product wins the cards. This game could also be done with addition and subtraction - fun for all ages! One thing to note is that this game is best done when students are paired up by skill level. Students need to be evenly matched for this to work out fairly.

I have no idea the name of this next game, so I called it "Add it Up!" I know, so original! This one requires a recording sheet of some kind. Students take turns drawing two cards each. They record the number sentence and sum and the student with the greatest sum wins the round. It's great because the winner is determined by the luck of the cards - the students don't need to be partnered up by skill level. Another bonus, this game can be done with multiplication and subtraction facts, too.

**Update: I just received a request for a subtraction version of the recording sheet, so I though I'd share that here as well. Click {HERE} or the picture below to grab that freebie.

Umm, apparently I need new whiteboard markers and also need to try one of those Pinterest tips for cleaning whiteboards, yikes!
Last one for today, and probably my favorite - I just love some place value practice! This one can be done as a whole group or as a small group with a student acting as the number caller. Students set up a game board with dashes for each digit, plus a trash can. You can decide how many digits you want the number to be, depending on what your students are learning. In the above pictures, the game board was set up for a 3-digit number, plus the trash can. Teacher (or student) pulls one card from the deck, tells it to the class and each student must decide where to place the number on their game board, trying to end up with a number with the greatest value. Continue pulling cards one at a time and make sure that students place the number for each turn. Students can use the trash can to discard a number they don't want to use,  but they can only use it once during each round. This game can also be done to create numbers with the least value and can be used for numbers with as many digits as you'd like.

I like this game because it requires skill and a bit of luck - any student can win. It can also reveal a lot - for instance when students are discarding eights and nines and placing ones in the hundreds place. Finally, I like it because it requires students to read their answer - reading large numbers can be a skill that students may not practice enough.

I've created some recording sheets for the "Add it Up!" game, just click the picture below:

I've included sheets for addition and multiplication (cleverly titled "Multiply it!"), as well as versions to be used with dice or playing cards. I've also included two and three partner versions because we all know that as soon as you try to pair up students, you have an odd number, it's inevitable.

Enjoy the weekend!

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

A Tale of Morning Work

Brace yourself, this may be a long one!

I was first introduced to the idea of morning work (though we didn't call it that) in my final practicum. We focused solely on math work and I thought it was great . . . for the most part. I thought the concept of having a little review time before the math lesson of the day was great, but my mentor teacher and I noticed some things that needed tweaking.

The first issue was the content. My mentor teacher found the most fitting book she could find at the time, and it worked . . . for the most part. Although we intended the morning work to be completed independently, we found that about half the time, the questions were covering topics the students hadn't seen or were not a part of the curriculum at all. This meant a lot of explaining on our part.

Another issue was the length. Each day was a full page with 10 questions. Here's what I found. A handful of students raced through the page. Another handful got about a third of the way through the page and the students who *really* needed the review, got overwhelmed and often only completed one or two questions.

The final thing that wasn't quite working out was that it didn't review the basics quite enough. This became apparent when, on a whim, my mentor teacher wanted to check the students' understanding of place value and number sense. So we started easy-ish. As an exit ticket, I gave the students 3 numbers in standard form, and asked them to represent them in written and expanded form. The results stopped us in our tracks. We were shocked by the results. A small handful of students could correctly answer the questions and some students were WAY off base. It definitely showed us where we needed to direct our teaching.

This was a real eye-opener for me. I've worked with a lot of students struggling in math and I've found that they are missing the basics. How can I expect them to be able to calculate the area of a rectangle, when they don't know their multiplication facts? How can I expect them to regroup, when they haven't mastered place value?

It was those questions that led me to create my Daily Math packs. I wanted something that could be used as morning work or homework, that not only covered grade levels topics, but also reviewed the basics. I felt it was important for it to spiral, starting with the previous year's curriculum before heading into the new grade level. I wanted something that was manageable for students who needed the review - I wanted them to feel successful.

So I created those . . . but that was two years ago. I felt the packs looked a bit dated, so I have finally started giving them a new look. I'm about halfway through my third grade set, and hope to move onto my fourth grade set next.

Was it the best idea to start this task at the beginning of a new school year? No, probably not, but now that I've started I am so excited can't wait to get all the packs finished!

Now I'm off to work on the Spring pack!

Saturday, 6 September 2014

3 Reasons I LOVE Task Cards!

Did that title kind of oversell task cards? I just can't help it - task cards are amazing! Let me just give a few reasons why I LOVE task cards.

1. They can act as a quick assessment.

Show a multiple choice task card on the document camera or SMART Board and allow students to show their answers using individual whiteboards or chalkboards. At a glance you will get a sense of how many students get it or whether the topic may need more exploration.

2. They are great for fast finishers.

Students work at different speeds and it is just about inevitable that you will always have fast finishers. When I did my first practicum, and was just beginning to learn about planning for a classroom, there were two students who were lightning quick. As in, they finished their work before I even finished giving the instructions! It was great because it really showed me how important it was to have work and activities planned for fast finishers, but oh how I wish I had some task cards handy then. In particular, I think they would have benefitted from some bonus task cards that would have helped extend their thinking on whatever subject we were studying.

3. They get kids moving

How many students in your class are kinesthetic learners? Although task cards may not always have students participating in hands-on activities, they do offer the students an opportunity to get up and moving. Post task cards around the room and allow students to move freely, completing questions as they go. This is also beneficial for those students who just can't sit still! And let's be honest, I think most, if not all, students benefit from movement breaks throughout they day.

So those are just a few of the many reasons I love task cards, how about you?

If you are interested in trying out task cards with your students, I now have a few packs available that you can check out my clicking the pictures below:

Enjoy the rest of the weekend!

Monday, 1 September 2014

A Little Back to School Eve Freebie

I'm stopping in quick on this back to school eve to share a little freebie!

Students use the letters in the phrase "Welcome Back to School!" to see how many new words they can create. I've included an optional letter sheet for students who prefer a more hands-on approach.

Click the picture or {HERE} for the freebie - hope you enjoy!

Have a great week!