Clotheslines for Math concepts

Using clotheslines as an interactive number line has been a hot routine this year.  Last year, I slowly and carefully rolled it out into a few classrooms for use of fractions.  This school year, I’ve expanded into more classrooms, but am proud of how my teachers have especially made it work in K-2 classrooms.   It’s been extraordinary to see using a routine where you get so much “bang for your buck.”  There are a good 2-3 content standards that students have been using, let alone multiple Standards of Math Practice.  

The clothesline makes sense of numbers and number placement.  I especially love the fact that it’s interactive, provokes discussion, and gives insight as to a child’s thinking.  Students are actively learning and using multiple strategies to complete the task.  And more importantly, it is a tool and a model for students to see the “big picture”.  

Let’s breakdown each grade level and how they’ve used the clothesline.

KinderI’m a true believer that if you can make a routine work for kindergarten, you can make it work for any grade level.   Ever since I introduced this to my kindergarten team, they’ve come up with MANY different ways to bring clotheslines to life!  It was rough to begin with, but my kinders have now been through the routine 4-5 times and they’ve got it!   Parents are now asking my teachers what kind of math they’re doing because the kids are telling their parents about what they did.  (Score!)  In September, Mrs. Z and I started with number 0-5 first.  Within weeks, we did 0-8.  And by November we did, 0-10.  It’s imperative to point out that kinders are not working on proportionality of the numbers.  They are just working on counting and cardinality (and measurement and data).  We also tried out using the clothesline with weight.  Instead of literally putting each object in order from least to greatest weight, we kept it simplistic with the light items being placed on the left while the heavier items went on the right.  If they were sure of an item, they placed it in the middle.

First grade – tried it out with numbers 0-25.  Lots of conversation.  Teachers got insight into how their students were thinking about numbers.

Second grade – tried it out with numbers 0-50.  Lots of conversation.  What was unique is that students were using their strategies of counting doubles for a few particular cards.

Third grade – have used this with benchmark fractions.  One 3rd grade team just designed a card set with multiple representations of multiplication.  This will be tried out in the new year

Fourth grade – will be using it for fractions.

Fifth grade – one teacher used it for decimals.  The students had been doing all the operations with decimals and wanted to see their number sense when it came to placing decimals on a number line.  What happened was a complete shock to her.  Students grouped the decimals according to number of digits (for instance, .4 and .5 would group together because they have one digit.)  That completely blew my mind.  Surely, we can’t always assume that our students have a true understanding of a concept when we ask them to apply their knowledge elsewhere.  

Sixth gradeteachers will be using clotheslines for integers and integers integrated with decimals, fractions, and percents.

If anyone is interested in downloading the sets of cards for their own use, look here for my sets of cards.

Until next time,

Kristen