Sunday, July 12, 2015

Making Sense of Math {Linky Week 2}: Computing Methods

Swamp Frogs
I'm back for week 2 of our linky series all about number sense!  Heidi with Mrs. Samuelson's Swamp Frogs is hosting this week so be sure and make sure you check out her wonderful ideas {here}.

Week 2: Modeling Different Computing Methods

This is one of my favorite guiding principles of number sense, as outlined by Marilyn Burn (founder of Math Solutions).  As many of us already know, there are so many ways to solve a problem.  Very often when I ask a child to explain their thinking behind their answer I am hit with an "aha" moment because I had not thought of it in that way.  It's amazing how empowered children feel when they are able to teach the teacher something.  ;)  I think it is very important to encourage students to find solutions using different methods and to celebrate them along the way.
  • focus on what methods make sense for different situations
  • there is no one right way to compute
  • we needs our students to be flexible thinkers 
Here are a few examples/resources that I hope you can use in your classroom:

The Queen of Ten with her "Ten Wand"

Have you heard of this?  It's pure genius in my book!  It comes from Jessica Shumway's Number Sense Routines.  Here's the gist: Every 10 days the students get a visit from the Queen of Ten.  She has a wand, made out of 10 unifix cubes.  The queen is fairly clumsy and always manages to slam her wand against a desk or something.  As you would breaks.  But alas!  It never breaks in the same way! So.....bam.  Decomposing 10 at it's best, right?  You can take this a step further by having the students partner up and pretend being the queen or king.  They can record their ways to make 10.  Groups will come up with different ways of making 10 so this makes for a great discussion.

Counting Collections

This video changed my life the first time I saw it.  For real.  I know it is something most all of us do in our classrooms already but I LOVE the way this teacher models, encourages flexible thinking, questions her students, etc.  She specifically tells her kiddos that they are making collections of 10 and then she sees a kid counting by 2's.  Instead of getting onto him for skip counting by 2's she asks him to explain his thinking.  He does and his way of computing makes perfect sense.  Then she praises the child and asks him to explain his ideas to the other children.  Love it.

Visible Thinking Routine: Chalk Talk

Chalk Talk is a great thinking routine to help encourage different methods of computing.  If you are unfamiliar with thinking routines I suggest getting this book: Making Thinking Visible by Ron Ritchart.  Chalk Talk consists of laying out a few pieces of chart paper around the room and giving your students markers to circulate with.  Your kids use their marker to add their thoughts onto the chart paper. They can add a new thought, idea or picture, or they can add onto someone else's thought.  For example, if you have a chart paper with the number 10 in the middle students might write the number ten, draw 10 pictures, draw a dime, write an equation, use tally marks, etc.  This is traditional a quiet routine where students communicate with their writing utensil rather than their voices but I usually let my kinders talk quietly.  It's up to you!  Just make sure you allow enough time for everyone to circulate to all of the chart papers.

Connections with Literature

Here are a few book suggestions that capitalize on the idea of computing in different ways.

Over the next 2 months I'm working with a few other teachers to focus on these guiding principles of number sense.  Our hope is to share tips, strategies and examples that help impact student learning and push number sense to the next level!  Make sure to check back for week 3 on mental math! :)


  1. THANK YOU for this informative post! Hands on and applicable to many students' learning modalities!

    1. Thank you for reading! I'm glad you got an idea or two from it. :)


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