Tuesday, March 7, 2017

math: favorite number

Remember how math is my favorite subject to teach?
I was not lying!
Today, I'm going to tell you about one of my favorite math activities to build number sense. 
Let me preface by saying I don't teach math facts in my classroom. I teach numbers. We dive into numbers every single day - dissect (decompose) them, build them, play with them. And the math facts come. Not only do students start internalizing them, they also understand that big numbers are made of littler numbers and there are many ways to put numbers together and take them apart.

 We use this particular activity as a warm up every single day and have been for a while. It's simple, fun, open ended, and easy to differentiate. Also, you can use it in any grade - just change the parameters or content (4th-5th grade could do a favorite fraction!)

And we call it My Favorite Number.

I either use my small white board [below] or (more recently) our interactive whiteboard [above] to display this activity. If I want students to come up and be a scribe then I will use the white board (we don't have SmartBoards boo!). Otherwise, I try to use the interactive whiteboard and the projector because it's prettier. 

Here's how it goes.
First, I look for a student who's being oh so good to be out special number picker (you can also use your leader of the day). I ask them what their favorite number is. At the beginning of the year I gave them parameters like 1-10 and then 1-20. Today, we have no parameters and my kids will even say numbers like 156. I draw a cloud in the corner and put the favorite number in it. Then, students have to think of a way to show, describe, or make that number.
This is the part I love. Every kids hand goes up because whether they say "30 + 4" or "draw 34 with ten frames" or "uhh....34 hearts?" each kid knows a way to show that number.

The growth I've seen doing this activity is amazing. At the beginning, students were mostly using pictorial representations but slowly and surely they began giving me number sentences (starting out like "uhh,...if you put this 2 and this 3 together it makes 5!")  to represent the number. They also choose larger numbers too. Despite being simple and lacking bells and whistles, the kids LOVE it. I think it has something to do with the way I scaffolded it and the confidence they feel. They are also so great at cheering each other on. They will congratulate a friend for thinking of a really cool or obscure way to represent a number. I see their brains turning (and fingers moving!) trying to think of a way no one else has said yet. We always fill up our board!

100% answers from my kindergarteners in December. 

My kids loved this whole group warm up so much, I took it over into small group. This is amazing because I can quickly give each kid a different number and tell them to give me 5 ways to show it. Assessment, differentiation, intervention, quick, easy (all my favorite words!)

[13: 10+3, base ten blocks] [20: 10+1, 10+10], [8: 4+4, ten frame, domino (4+4), 8 flowers], [22: 20+2, 21+1]

I just love activities that students love, require no paper, are easy to differentiate, and build number sense. And I'm sure you do too! I hope you can incorporate My Favorite Number (fraction, integer, whatever!) into your everyday routine. I think you'll see the amazing confidence in your kids and love it too.

Want a way to start today? Click here for a Favorite Number sheet. You can put this in a center, use it at your table, laminate them, put them in page protectors, or whatever else you want! :) 

Happy teaching!

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