Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Chalk, Animals, & Tile: Summertime Fun with Area & Perimeter

On my summer reading list: Jo Boaler's Mathematical Mindsets: Unleashing Students' Potential through Creative Math, Inspiring Messages and Innovative Teaching.

Yesterday, I read her challenge to teach math content using a question rather than following a procedure. (p. 78) She offers this suggestion:
"Instead of asking students to find the area of a 12 by 4 rectangle, ask them how many rectangles they can find with an area of 24."
And voila...we have a summer afternoon activity for a slightly bored child whose siblings are all at camp!

I posed the situation this way...

A farmer has pens that each contain an area of 24 square units. The farmer wants to know how many different rectangular pens he can make.

Then we got out the chalk, tile, and animals.  The first pen he built, 4 x 6, was for the cows:

I asked what other pens fit the criteria of 24 square units. He thought for a bit. "6 x 4?" We agreed that since this had the same dimensions, we wouldn't built it. He soon thought of another: 3 x 8.

He asked if this farm could have penguins. Sure, why not? The next pen took a bit more thought, but after some think time he built a 2 x 12 for the pigs.

I asked if this included all the possibilities for pens with an area of 24. He wasn't sure, so we made a list. (Ideally, he would have played around with 24 tile, exploring how many different rectangles could be made, but the farmer was getting tired.)

Although he didn't want to make the 1 x 24, he talked about how LONGGGG that one would be.

Then I asked another question:

The farmer needs to buy fencing for each of the pens. One section of fence covers one side of a tile. Which pen has the cheapest fencing? Which has the most expensive?

At first he predicted that the "biggest" pen would have the most fence. (At this point, in his mind, the 4x6 pen was "biggest." After all, it did contain the cows! Later on, I asked about pen size and he was able to say that they are all the same.)

His findings:
4x6 area = 20 sections of fence
3x8 area = 22 sections of fence
2x12 area = 28 sections of fence
1x24 area = 50 sections of fence

His eyes got really big when he heard it would take 50 sections of fence. He remarked that the chunkier pens have less fence because more of the edges are in the middle. I asked if he knew another name for the "fence" or the distance around. He named it perimeter.

Thanks, Jo, for a great summertime exploration!

p.s. Try making your own farms with pens of 36, 100, or other areas!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Student Notebook Strategy Posters

This quick, easy idea is one that works well for student notebooks. When I work with students on strategies, I often create a classroom anchor chart for the wall. I like to record the name of the student who used the strategy, along with a title that clearly describes the strategy. Kids love to see their own names in print and when they're asked to name what happens in the strategy, they often delve into rich mathematical thinking and discussion to define exactly what it is that they've done.

To give students greater ownership in the process, I invite students to make their own posters to go in their math notebooks or journals. I give each child an 11" x 17" paper, folded near (but not on) the halfway mark and 3-hole punched on the left. This way, the poster can be folded and added to their math notebooks as permanent reference.

Today, we made posters for Addition Strategies. If you click on the photos, you can see that we depict and name a variety of strategies. You'll also notice that this exercise is appealing to the artists in the crowd.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Give (and Take!) Me a Great Addition Strategy

Exciting work continues in our summer math sessions!

Last week, my 10yo son and I started exploring strategies to help with multi-digit addition fluency. The "Give and Take"* strategy has given us inspiration and taken away some of our math anxiety. Here's how it works...

Let's say you're asked to add two, somewhat unfriendly, numbers.

97 + 78

Yuck. Not a great combination.

But what if you could do a little give-and-take to make it easier?

97 + 78 = 97 + (3 + 75) = (97 + 3) + 75 = 100 + 75 = 175

Which would you rather solve?

97 + 78


100 + 75

The consensus was pretty clear around here!

How about:

443 + 289

What if we "take" 11 from 443 (443 - 11 = 432) and "give" it to 289 (289 + 11 = 300)? Is it easier to now add 432 + 300?

 My 10yo explains the strategy in his math journal, in the photos you see here.

So "witch" would you rather add? :)

After journaling, to solidify the concept, he made up his own problem:

270 + 665

He took/gave 30:

300 + 635 = 935

And today, he applied it to a story problem where he had to add 275 + 168. He took/gave 25 to end up with 300 + 143. He bubbled with excitement ("MOM!!!!!"), telling me how great the give/take strategy works!

I hope this gives you a little inspiration to take back to class!

P.S. This also works well with decimals!

*The Bridges Curriculum calls this the "Give and Take" strategy.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Multiplication Strategies: x2, x4, x8

Over the past week, my son and I have made tremendous progress with multiplication. (Intro post here.) Each day, we add to his fluency toolbox by looking at specific strategies. The (related) strategies for 2s, 4s, and 8s, have been especially fruitful. Let's look at why...

2s...Dare to DOUBLE!
Twos are easy-peasy. Just a matter of doubling. We can see an example in this array.

If you multiply something by 2, you only need to double. Instead of 1 group of 6, you have 2 groups of 6; you just double 6.

In Bridges in Mathematics, the strategy for multiplying by 4s is called Double-Double. It's easy to see why.

We already doubled when we multiplied by 2. To go from 2x a number to 4x a number, we double. So we double, then double again.

6 is doubled to 12 (x2)
12 is doubled to 24 (x4)

I bet you can guess what's coming next!

We call the strategy for 8s Double-Double-Double.
For 8x, we double 3 times:

6 is doubled to 12 (x2)
12 is doubled to 24 (x4)
24 is doubled to 48 (x8)

Can you see it in the model?

This is not a multiplication "trick" but rather a strategy with meaning behind it. Children need to see the visual model and understand what "Double-Double-Double" means. Once they understand the concept, they can apply it in wonderful ways.

I asked my son (just developing fluency with single digit multiplication) to consider these problems.

8 x 15 = ?

He doubled 15 and got 30. He doubled 30 (60). And doubled once more to get 120. So 8 x 15 = 120.

4 x 13 = ?

Double 13 to get 26. Double 26 to get 52. (Of course he then wanted to keep going and figure out 8 x 13. Double 52 and get 104!)

25 x 8 = ?

50, 100, 200, done! This problem was also a great opportunity to talk about another strategy. Do you know what it is? Leave your ideas in the comments below to start a RICH exchange.

Hope you're having a double dose of summer fun!

Little Girl Graphic from:
Number Frames (free app) from:

Friday, June 17, 2016

Multiplication Fluency: Summer Practice

Ready for a start-to-summer quiz?
Question: What happens when the math coach's child begins the summer by taking a multiplication fluency assessment in which he answers 20 problems in 4.5 minutes when the fluency guideline is 20 problems in 1 minute?

Answer: Summer math!  (Don't you wish you lived at my house?)
In case anyone else is in a similar predicament, here are a few resources to get you started...

First, "fluency" does not equate memorization. If you're interested in the difference between "by memory" and "memorization," check out this article. Fluency means accurate, efficient, and flexible mathematical thinking. Think about reading fluency. A fluent reader is not just fast. 120 words-per-mind counts for nothing without comprehension. Fluent readers AND mathematicians are  accurate, efficient, and flexible.

Although every child needs to master all three areas, he may demonstrate challenges in one area over the others. In our case, flexibility is an issue. Although my child knows some strategies for working with multiplication, it doesn't appear to be something that's been emphasized in his education. To that end, we are working to increase his strategy toolbox.

I pulled the Multiplication & Division Discussion Cards from Opening Eyes to Mathematics. (Cards are located on pp. 32-35 in this pdf, free from The Math Learning Center.) We flip through several cards a day and talk about what strategies could be used to solve a problem. For example:

What multiplication expression is represented here? (8 x 8)

How could we look at pieces of this array to help us solve the problem? Maybe we could see it as two parts: 8 x 5 and 8 x 3.

So 8 x 8 = (8 x 5) + (8 x 3) = 40 + 24 = 64

Or maybe you see it as two groups of 4 x 8:

What about this one? Could you use what you already know about 10 x 7 to help you figure out
9 x 7?

Strategies become critical when you get to larger multiplication problems, so this is definitely something we want to work on now.

Although fluency doesn't equate speed, it is generally expected that students be able to complete 20 problems in 1 minute to meet fluency standards. With the strategies in hand, I plan to assess his progress using the free online program, Xtra Math. I would not use this in isolation as I don't want to overemphasize speed, but when combined with visual models and strategies, it's a reasonable way for  both of us to track his progress.
Related Posts with Thumbnails
Blogging tips