As I have said countless times in previous posts, my 6th graders have been math buddies with a kindergarten class. The other kinder teacher and I spend numerous hours trying to create and plan different activities for both classes to do. One of the books I came across on Twitter was 12 Ways to Get 11 by Eve Merriam.

While planning, we purposely waited to do this activity when kindergarten was much more in tune with their addition facts and when 6th grade needed a break from testing.

I let my collaborative partner perform and read the book. She’s so expressive with her reading. The kinder students involved themselves at counting everything to 11. After the book was read, we counted things around the room to 11. For instance, students noticed that there were exactly 11 clouds hanging from the ceiling (complete coincidence!). Students also noticed 11 months that were listed next to the calendar (May was being used on the calendar).

Next, we let both sets of students explore combinations of 11. We explained that more than 2 numbers could add up to 11. My students love working with cuisenaire rods (their manipulative of choice).

This is what they came up with. I loved seeing how each set of students would represent the combinations. Kindergarten mostly just used the rods, where as my students had to represent the combinations with drawings, sketches, or some sort of visual representation.

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Here’s some footage of what we observed.

We wish we had more time to do more with this activity. We meant to go back to it, but other things get thrown at us at the end of the school year.

In the fall, my kindergarten collaborator and I did a heights unit with her students and with my 6th graders. She covered the standard that directly compares 2 objects with a measureable attribute (K.MD.2) while I covered my standard on inequalities. Both Mrs. Z and I thought it went extremely well. It really contextualized the math standards.

But our unit and planning didn’t stop there.

May—

Because of all the stress and pressure of testing in May, I wanted to keep my afternoons less stressful, but engaging. During math time, Mrs. Z and I set up another week of exploration with heights, but this time we made sure to hit different standards and design different activities. Kinder was going to use the heights of themselves and a buddy to figure out the difference between the two measurements. My students were going to convert the measurements into feet and inches. (6.RP.3d Use ratio reasoning to convert measurement units; manipulate and transform units appropriately when multiplying or dividing quantities)

Day 1 – We introduced both groups to a 3 Act lesson we called “Tallest Teacher.” We combined both our classes so that we could deliver the lesson only once. Plus we wanted to see if the buddies would help each other out. They also discovered that my partner likes to cheat.

Lots of notice and wonder as seen here….

Act 2 consisted of a little bit of information…

Act 3 was this grand finale. Yes—Mrs. A is ginormous.

Here is some pics of the student work from kinder. Don’t have pictures of 6th grade work, but I can report that half my class did exceedingly well…except they don’t know how to convert a remainder into part of a foot.

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Day 2 – Now it was time to trace our bodies. Giggles and laughter was heard throughout the hour. Mrs Z. and I could be seen running back and forth between both our classrooms making sure everyone was ok and not being stepped on.

This took some prep work on our part. Gathering over 50 pieces of bulletin board paper was not an easy feat.

Day 3/4 – It’s measurement time. Unlike the last time, students were only allowed to use unifix cubes. We combined each color into units of 10 to make counting easier. Ironically, my 6th grade students didn’t catch onto this as I caught a few counting each individual cube.

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Final Thoughts…

My 6th grade students love that we do things differently. I’m not the textbook kind of teacher (and neither is Mrs. Z). We like when we can make the standards come to life.

Again…this has the potential to be noisy and disturb other teachers. However the learning is amazing. The engagement is incredible. Stick with your gut and go for it!

Using cubes as a measurement was pretty cool, but my students had a difficult time converting them into inches. I had to spoon feed it to them a bit.

One of the reasons I decided to make the move to elementary was due to my strong partnership with a kindergarten teacher. When my coaching position was dissolved, I had the choice of heading back to middle school. However, she convinced me to teach 6th grade at her school (and literally across the hall from her). I really do like having a broader range of students to access. At my school, we have 700 TK through 6th grade (ages 4-12).

In being the new addition to the school, I was eager to collaborate with other grade levels. Mrs. Z (kinder teacher) and I took advantage of our proximity and became “kindergarten buddies.” My 6th graders partnered up with her kindergarten students. At first my students would mostly read books to her students, but as the year progressed we started doing some very cool math stuff. We learned how to make any activity work for her kindergarten math standards as well as my 6th grade standards!!! It was pretty amazing (they’ll be more blog posts about other activities—I’m so behind in blogging).

November —

Mrs. Z wanted to do a height activity that she’s done with her students before. She asked me if she could get assistance from my students. This involved taping the heights of her students (as well as mine) on the outside of our classrooms for the whole school to see. This would actively engage the students in her standard K.MD.A.2 – Describe and compare measurable attributes. Directly compare two objects with a measurable attribute in common to see which object has “more of”/ “less of” the attribute and describe the difference.

Day 1. We started off asking them who was tallest, Mrs Z or myself (Mrs. A).

Day 1—6th graders mark/taped the kindergarteners’ heights.

Day 2 – 6th graders mark/tape their own heights using painters’ tape. 6th grade also measures their heights in inches. Kindergarten proceeds with discussing who’s taller/tallest/the same height.

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Day 3/4—- Now you might be thinking that 6th grade should be way past this kind of stuff. Little did my students know, this would be valuable information for one of their standards.

6th grade standard – 6.EE.B.8 Write an inequality to represent a condition in a real world or mathematical problem.

Before we started this unit, I told the students that they were going to Knotts Berry Farm. Thanks to Robert Kaplinsky, we used his lesson “Which Ride Can You Go On?” After 6th grade found their heights (in inches), they ran across the hallway and measured their kinder buddies’ heights. Then they figured out the inequality for each ride and figured out if they or their buddies could go on the ride.

Our principal didn’t know what was going on, but she saw engagement. Other kinder teachers soon followed suit asking us what we doing (same goes for my 6th grade colleagues). Kindergartners really enjoyed quality time with their 6th grade counterparts. And of course, Mrs. Z and I completely played off each other (as per usual).

Here’s what we learned….

Always use painters tape, however don’t leave it on too long as the sun will melt the adhesive and make it quite difficult to peel off the walls.

pre-tape/section off where students will measure themselves. Mrs. Zmade name stickers, while my students wrote their names somewhere using Sharpies.

6th graders still need practice using a ruler. I didn’t even dare to ask them to convert inches into feet.

This activity has the potential to be noisy. Warn the classrooms around you….But remember…this is great learning.

Loved that my students got a more conceptual understanding of what inequalities are and a real world connection. Ironically, we actually went to Knotts Berry Farm months later and they still remembered this lesson!

This wasn’t the end of our unit. This was only part 1!!!! Part 2 was done in the spring and will be written as a separate blog post. Coming soon…..

For the past few months, I’ve been completely sidelined with another project that required my full attention and writing skills. Luckily, the project is finished and now it’s the waiting game. SO my apologies for my disappearance. However, I have a few blog posts that I’m going to catch up on in the next few weeks.

As most of you know, I’m a clothesline math enthusiast. Love the routine. Love the conversation surrounding it. Love that it creates student engagement. As a matter of fact, some of you might have seen this. Chris Shore wrote a full book about it and gave me and my school an acknowledgement. Super cool.

When it was time for my fractions, decimals, and percent unit, I was thrilled to use the clothesline. I wanted my students to see the interconnectedness between each of the concepts. After I taught them the skills needed (how to convert fractions to decimals, decimals to percents and fractions to percents), I broke out the clothesline. This time, instead of pre-designated cards, I had my students design their own. With the use of a hundreds grid, my kids got to design color in as many squares as they wanted. From there, they collaborated with their table groups and figured out the fraction, decimal and percent of the grids colored in compared to 100.

Once they put them on the clothesline, we had a discussion about percentages less than 1% (and what they would look like). We also had a discussion on 200% and where that would go in comparison to 100%. Big math argument. One student put 200% to the right of 100%. Other students were arguing that it should be equally spaced compared to where 0-100% was placed. 100%-200% should be the same distance.

The lesson was a success. But I had a revelation about clothesline. Rather than me choosing with fraction, percents, decimals to,did I increase student engagement with having students create their own?Is there more ownership with student-created clotheslines?More importantly, how could other grade levels create their own clotheslines?

This sparked a new category of clotheslines. I tried out my idea with a kindergarten intervention group. The students were enthusiastic about it. They liked seeing how many different ways we could create a certain number. I saw the potential of using blank tens frames. Kindergarten also creates their own with the use of the names. (see here)

Here are my latest additions to the clothesline world. I’ve created blank templates in hopes that our students can take ownership of their own clotheslines.

When you hear “kindergarten”, some of my math peeps will shudder and shake. The idea of teaching “the little people” is an exhausting task. However, this has been part of my universe for a few years now in thanks to my math partner, Stacy.

We have been exploring different conferences with enthusiasm. We have brought our math story to primary teachers in Northern and Southern California. At these conferences, I looked forward to meeting different math educators that I kept up with through MTBoS (Math Twitter Blog-O-Sphere). I would eagerly introduce them to Stacy and tell our story. They welcomed us with open arms and were intrigued by our partnership.

This weekend was different. Instead of Stacy entering my world of math folks, I entered hers of the kindergarten clan. Rather than be one of thousands of math educators, we were one of three sessions featuring math. It was a world of songs, bright colors, and construction paper. Stacy spent the time pointing out different people to me while I tried to “blend” in. When introducing myself as a 6th grade teacher/math coach, I was repeatedly asked “What are you doing here?” But then I told our story and why I attend, and they were interested in what we had to say.

We were scheduled during the toughest time slot–Friday at 5:45. These primary teachers had been sitting in sessions all day long. But we persisted. We showed them “Which One Doesn’t Belong”, clothesline math, and the flipped hundreds chart. Luckily for us, our participants were enthusiastic. We challenged their thinking. And in turn—they challenged us. One asked, “why are you here for kindergarten?” I answered her “it was because the little ones are outstanding mathematicians.” I stand by that.

We were different from the other sessions in that we didn’t sell our stuff on Teacher Pay Teacher. We weren’t at the conference with any company selling their goods. We were there to spread the word of math. “Math can be fun and interactive,” we told them. While presenting, we kept telling them we have them covered. We gave them thumb drives will all kinds of files on it (including all the clothesline cards). “That deserves a round of applause,” claimed one of our participants. When I heard that, I remember looking at Stacy who was beaming with her brightest smile. We did it.

In a previous post, I had explained how we keep trying to improve our presentation skills. With this one in the books, we have hit our stride. We have accomplished what we have set out to do—empower more teachers and reach more children with our love of math. As I keep exploring other conferences and venues for our work, there’s more that can be done in helping the primary teachers.

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.

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…..

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.

Will SumBoxes eventually create boxes for third through fifth grades? I can see the potential for fractions, decimals, etc.

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. ****

Back in February, I came across a blog post from Telanna about shapes. She saw a Twitter post from Sarah Caban asking a simplistic question.

How would you define the word “shape”?

Not wanting to miss out on the bandwagon, I decided to jump in. Considering that I have access to such a grade span, I patiently waited for the right time in each grade level’s curriculum to pop in on a few classrooms and have a conversation. Each teacher that I chatted with was also intrigued with my master plan and wanted to see/hear the results.

Kindergarten

And so my journey of defining shapes began with Mrs. Z’s kindergarten in March. She was right in the middle of her shapes unit (perfect timing) and so she asked the kiddos the question “What is a shape?”

shapes have points and angles. (T asked –do all shapes have points)

Not all shapes have points.

shapes you can trace or cut out.

Everything we color or write or draw is a shape.

Shapes are everywhere because they are.

The kiddos keep having side conversations asking questions like “are they lines?” and “what about letters?”. One child proclaimed “the sky is not a shape.” Upon hearing this, another child replied, “but what’s in the sky? Sun, Stars and Clouds”.

After the in-depth conversation, Mrs. Z asked them to get up and make shapes with their bodies. First, they made a circle (or the attempt at a circle) and then a rectangle. Some students ran up to me to show me the shapes with their fingers/hands.

Third Grade

Fast Forward three weeks—->>>

My next door neighbor, Ms. N, teaches third grade and upon hearing about my shape quest, invited me in to lead the discussion on shapes. They were also in the middle of their geometry unit, so the kiddos wanted to impress me with their growing geometry vocabulary. They also corrected me in that they are discussing POLYGONS, not shapes.

something that has sides

has a vertex (corner of a shape)

has angles—> can be 90 degrees

has different sides

could be a quadrilateral

has to have more than 3 lines

has to be closed —-> all lines connecting

can be a polygon

shapes are all around us

convex —> shape doesn’t have a cave in it

can have a concave in it

rectangle can have opposite sides

can have parallel sides

Fifth Grade

OK OK OK. I have a guilty conscience about this one. I cheated. Full admission of guilt.

I didn’t have time to go to a fifth grade classroom. Time became of the essence for the fifth grade teachers with reviewing for CAASPP testing.

HOWEVER—- I have an a 11 year old son (5th grader) who was happy (** sarcasm**) to have a conversation with me about shapes. Yes…this is what we do during our commute into work/school.

shapes are in everything

there’s no one thing that doesn’t have a shape

shapes are the building blocks of life. (how philosophical of my son)

have corners

they can have an infinite number of sides, but then that might turn into a circle

the sides are not always the same.

there are squares, rectangles, hexagons, circles, triangles,

rectangle has uneven sides

square has all even sides

I asked what he meant by “uneven” and my son said that it was when one side was larger than the other.

Final Thoughts

Students in the primary grades start by being introduced to their shapes. It becomes just identification which is the first level of learning. By third grade, they are being exposed to more specific language and vocabulary. This third grade wanted to impress me with their knowledge of geometry. They had been testing out different shapes to see which would pass their definitions. As for 5th grade, they have a broader view of what shapes are. They have also explored 3 dimensional shapes as they discover volume.

If I had a chance to follow up with each class, I could ask the question, “what does NOT make a shape?” It would be a great contrast to their base knowledge. It would challenge their thinking and we could probably have an in-depth conversation about their comprehension of shapes.

It’s incredible to have teachers take something you introduced them to (in this instance–the clothesline) and see what they do with it. And I can’t emphasize enough to my teachers that they should use whatever I give them and make it their own. I usually tell them to “make it work for you.” And then, they invite me in for me to see how they made it work.

In this instance, it’s Mrs. Z, my kinder all-star. Mrs. Z decided to type her class list of students’ names onto cards and see what the kiddos would do with it. How would they want to put their names on the clothesline? Quite a innovative way to make use of the number line. I was curious too

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I assumed they when asked, the students would want to put them into alphabetic order. Seemed like an obvious choice. Nope…alphabetic order didn’t even come up as an idea. Instead, the students decided to count their letters in their names and put them in order from smallest name to longest names. “Medium is in the middle,” I had one student tell me. Got it! Thanks for explaining.

And little by little, they started placing their cards. And they did really well. Yes these pictures look like that are incorrect because they are not in alphabetical order. Remember though that they were putting them in order by number of letters in their name.

And one night for a parent evening for kindergarten, I saw this.

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So much fun to see. What a thrill to see one of my routines expanded and used. This only proves that there are so many possibilities to the clothesline activity.

My kindergarten collaborator, Stacy and I recently attended a 2 day workshop with Graham Fletcher and it re-ignited our passion for 3 act tasks/lessons. She’s made it her goal to collaborate with me and create one task per topic. I happily accept her challenge and told her, “GAME ON!”

The most recent topic in her curriculum was sorting. This is a skill that we all take for granted. We sort our trash into various recycling bins. We sort through mail. We sort our clothes while folding laundry. How do we get little ones to understand how things are alike and yet different?

She already uses the “Which One Doesn’t Belong” routine and asks students “how would you sort these?” However, how can we bring this standard (K.MD.3 Classify objects into given categories; count the number of objects in each category and sort the categories by count.) to life in the form of a 3 act task?

Our answer was this….let’s give them a scenario they should be accustomed to.

Act 1

As always we started with a notice and wonder routine.

Notice –

I saw crayons

Math Wizard said “clean up”

He’s drawing a rainbow and boxes

Crayons are everywhere

I see markers

I heard the Math Wizard

She has a son ?!?!

He needs to pick up his stuff before school

It must be night time because it’s dark

Wonder –

Was he cleaning up to go to bed?

Was he cleaning up before dinner?

Was he cleaning up because he was done?

Does he have a brother or a sister?

Act 2

I was really curious how Mrs Z was going to push their thinking beyond their notice and wonder. She inquired further. She showed the Act 2 picture.

“What would you do with that stuff? What if Mrs Z said ‘clean up’? What would you do with it? Where would you put the stuff?”

The students thought about her questions for a moment and slowly put their hands up. One student piped up with “I’d put the pencils away”. And Mrs Z next asked, “How?”

“The markers go together. The pencils go together and the crayons go together.”

“I WOULD ORGANIZE IT!”—>And there it was. Just the answer we were looking for. And that is a big word for this student.

And so we discussed how they would sort them. Some students said by size. Some students said by color. One student said he’s organize them between caps and no caps (Markers have caps on them versus no caps.)

Usually at this part of the lesson, the students do some kind of calculations or reason out their answer. How could they be expected to sort from a picture? That’s where Mrs. Z comes in with her bag of tricks. Prior to the lesson, she made bags of pencils, colored pencils, and crayons. Each group would be showing all the different ways to sort their bags. Oh–let the games begin!

Mrs Z and I wandered around the room eager to see what the groups would do. She informed me that they don’t work in groups too often, so she was curious of how this would go down.

Here’s one group’s explanation.

Here’s another groups explanation.

At one point, we noticed that a group put all their pencils together. We asked them how they could further sort this group.

Just when I thought we were pretty much done, Mrs Z runs around a throws unifix cubes on to their tables. The kiddos didn’t bat an eyelash and just incorporated them into their categories. Here’s one groups way of organizing. What do you notice about the picture?

Act 3

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Final thoughts….

Having the students work in cooperative groups for this lesson gave us opportunity to see which roles the students would fall into. You can see who lead the pack and who followed along.

Student usually come up with more answers than you can anticipate, but we are never disappointed.

I love the hands-on exploration part. We got to see how they were organizing their items.

It’s that time of the year when our students are running to ___________(insert convenience store here—I prefer Target) to buy gobs of chocolates, candies, cards and all of the Valentine’s paraphernalia that is attributed to this holiday. And in the spirit of such heartsy, lovey, dovey emotions, Mrs Z. and I put together another 3 act lesson. What better way to embody Valentine’s Day then to share with the ones you love. In our case, it was sharing with your classmates.

Act One –the fight.

Along with every Three Act lesson, we encourage the students to inquire about what they are seeing with the questions, “What do you notice?” and “What do you wonder?”

Notice – (Compiled between 2 classes)

hands are fighting

I heard the math wizard’s voice

I see a box

They were ready to share.

Inside the box was candy

Candies are hearts

tried grabbing with hands

Candies are different colors

Wonder – (what are you curious about? What questions are running through your head?)

Why didn’t they get their own box of candies?

Did they have enough to share?

Are there other people there?

How many candies are in the box?

Why were they fighting?

Why weren’t there 2 boxes?

A bonus concept for the kinder teachers was that there were a few talking points to review. Some students talked about what it means to share. One class focussed on sharing so that the results are fair. In one class, I had a

Act 2 – How many hearts are in the box?

Act 2 consisted of us giving the students the information that there were 12 hearts in the box. Using this candy-hearts template, we had the students figure out how many candy hearts Jared and his mom should get. You can see the multiple ways that the students went about solving it.

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Mrs. Z called me over to listen in on one conversation. Take a look below at what we observed.

Terrific piece of evidence. This student observed that she knew that they were the same because they had the same number of cubes and had the same shape.

Act 3 – The big reveal

Act 3 is usually my favorite because it reveals the answer. It’s really the best part of the lesson because you can hear the “YES!” or see the high fives spreading throughout the entire class. Here’s how we revealed the answer.

Overall the lesson went better than planned. There was another teacher that observed Mrs. Z doing this lesson and whispered, “this is dividing.” I nodded and told her that was true, however I knew that Mrs. Z had begun working on some addition. I also told her that you never know what our students are capable of until you give them that opportunity.