Category Archives: First Gr.

Math in a box

Happy Summer everyone.  Hadn’t expected to blog much this summer as I’m vigorously preparing for my new teaching assignment.  However, something  “mathy” showed up  and I was asked to review it.

Sumboxes is a new subscription company that comes to your door step.  It’s essentially math-in-a-box.   In all my years of teaching, I haven’t seen “teacher” boxes, let alone subscription boxes that include math.  The sample box I received was geared for teachers or parents of kindergarteners.   Upon further research of their website, they also have boxes for first grade and second grade.  



What’s in the box?  

Let’s get to the nitty gritty before anything else.  Watch below….

Let’s lay it all out…. You have 2 math activities that include directions/notes, 2 PVC zipper bags, dice, cards, dinos, a magnet, and a sticker —-all included in a neatly blue and yellow schemed wrapping.  

Upon my inspection, there’s a lot going on in this box. First, I liked that there was not one, but two quality activities.  I can totally see kinders at my school excited by the fact that they were playing games with dinos (who doesn’t get excited by that?!?!).  Secondly,  the instruction cards, notes, and activity boards were on good quality card stock.  They weren’t flimsy at all.  It seems as though they will survive some wear/tear from little ones.   I also was thrilled to see that I can store the activities in the zipper bags (if you haven’t come across these before….get them!!!!)  Lastly and most importantly, it’s all there.  As teachers, we scour the internet (Pinterest, Teacher Pay Teacher, or blogs) or our activity books (blow that dust off of them) to find quality activities.  If/when we do find activities, we then have to rummage around for the right materials, supplies, etc.  All of this takes time, effort (copying, laminating, cutting), and money.  And sometimes—in the case of TeacherPayTeacher—-you don’t truly know what you’re getting until you download the file (just because it has a cute font doesn’t make it good).   

Long story, short — it is refreshing to see an idea like this come along where more math  content is being offered.  No fuss, no muss.  

My thoughts…

Heading back to the Sumboxes website, I read about the company more and came across this.

Screenshot 2017-07-17 12.37.07
I like what I’m seeing


  It’s usually perceived by parents and students to be hard, difficult, and boring.  To read this mission statement is refreshing.   This mission statement also aligns with my views that math can be intriguing, invigorating, and enjoyable.  Why can’t students play games and do activities that practice math skills?  I can imagine the look on students’ faces when we take out one of these boxes.  Pure excitement! 

Here are a few questions that rattled around in my brain…..

  1. Would SumBoxes offer a menu of what math concepts are going to be covered in my future boxes?  For instance, this month we are adding, but next month we are covering subtracting.  
  2. Will SumBoxes eventually create boxes for third through fifth grades?  I can see the potential for fractions, decimals, etc.
  3. If I’d like another box of the dinosaurs, can I get an additional box without having to pay for a full separate subscription? 

(As I ponder more, I will be adding more questions in the future.)

My advice for teachers and coaches would be to check out Sumboxes.   I can see schools/principals subscribe to this for individual teachers and/or grade levels.  Teachers could try a box out for a month and rotate them among their colleagues.  The potential to for support in math is there.  It’s a great tool/resource to have around which will engage our students in math.

****This review was completely unsolicited.  I’m not getting paid and compensated in any way, shape or form.  I just like math stuff. ****





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,