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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Multi-Digit Multiplication Area Model Online Activity

January 2020 update: It looks like this game is no longer available!  If you find it again or it goes back up please comment below!  In the meantime, we have been loving this free app for looking at area model!

I am a big fan of using the area model to teach multiplication.  Starting at the fact level and working up through multiplying polynomials, the area model is a great way to anchor understanding and help students see how multiplication is all connected.  If you want to learn more, check out this post about using the area model to teach mixed number multiplication.  You can also check out this post where I write about fourth graders using QR codes along with arrays and partial products to practice double digit addition.  

As I try to keep kids busy and learning when I am meeting with small groups, I often look for really good computer activities or games to keep kids motivated.  I have had a hard time finding practice online for area model type multiplication.  However last year I stumbled upon this gem.  I ended up using it in grades 3-5 but my fourth graders definitely used it most!

The Amoeba Multiplication Game

The game is offered at 3 different levels.  Level A is two digit by one digit.  Level B is double digit and Level C is three digit by two digit.  

An example of a level A problem.  The student is asked to find 12 X 5 by finding the product of 5 and 10 and the product of 5 and 2.  Then they click on check.  If they are right it then asks them to add the two partial products together to get the final product.  

Level A waiting for the student to find the sum. 

Level B.  The student has entered the partial products and hit check.  Now they need to find the sum of the 2 parts and hit check again.  

Level C

Level C.  Here is what happens when you hit check and one of your answers in incorrect.  A purple box appears around it and it asks you to try again.  
My students liked that they got to use the computer and kept referring to this as a game.  I see it as more of an activity then a game but the kids really seemed to enjoy it.  My favorite part is that kids get the extra practice they need and get immediate feedback if they are wrong!  There is nothing worse than a kid practicing math the wrong way!

If you know any other great games for practicing multi-digit multiplication leave a link in the comments below!

If you are looking for another fun way to practice these important skills you might want to check out this QR code scavenger hunt!

Looking for more double digit multiplication practice?  This low prep activity has over 120 positive reviews! 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Guided Math in Action Book Study: Chapter 9

Welcome to my guided math book study!  It is not to late to join in!  Every week, I will provide the links to past posts so if you are just finding this book study you can jump right in!

July 2   Chapters 1 and 2
July 9   Chapters 3 and 4
July 30 Chapter 9

Chapter 9: The First 20 Days of Math Workshop

I loved this chapter!  This gives teachers the steps they need to set up Guided Math in their classroom.  Choosing rules, discussing how to talk about math, introducing the mathematicians chair and making anchor charts are all outlined and detailed in a way that makes it easy for a teacher to get started with her own class.  This chapter really shows how laying a strong foundation can make math time a success and really takes some of the fear of the unknown out of the idea of Guided Math.  I think this chapter would actually make a great starting off point for teachers who are unsure about trying Guided Math.  It is something that is doable in your classroom and this chapter and this book in general will give you the tools you need to make it happen.

This is the final chapter in this book and the conclusion of this book study.  If there is a big take away from this that I really want to communicate with my blog readers it is this. 

If you do not have the structures in place that allow you to meet with small groups of students during math on a daily or weekly basis, you are not meeting the needs of all your students.  I know with large class sizes and reduced staffing levels it is getting harder for folks to give students individual attention.  If you only ever do whole group instruction, you might want to consider trying some or all aspects of Guided Math to provide you with a framework that allows for some small group instruction.  I noticed a huge difference in my students' abilities when I made time for small group work and I think you will too!

What is your biggest struggle when trying to meet with small groups?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

More Quick and Fun Math Practice For Little Kids

Last week, I started describing how I have been making busy bags to use in the classroom in conjunction with my math browse boxes to keep kids busy and learning in the classroom, at home or on the road.  

You can check out last week's post about number sticks and read more about math busy bags and browse boxes here!
This week, I want to show you another simple to make but effective way to keep kids busy and practicing math!

Materials List
-Felt sheets: I used a full blue one as well as about 1/5 of a sheet of yellow, green and orange and a few scraps of a black sheet.
-Wiggle eyes: I included some round and some oval shaped ones.  The sky is the limit here!  They have all kinds of wiggle eyes available these days.  I picked up a multi-pack with a lot of varieties for various projects.
-Permanent Marker
-Small scrap of cardstock or cardboard
-Small circular object

I simply traced the bottom of a round yogurt cut onto a scrap piece of cardstock.  Then I cut this out and used it as a pattern for cutting out the felt.  When I had 12 circles, I wrote the numbers 1-12 on them.  The kid I was making this for has been working on ordering numbers up to 10 and was ready for a bit of a stretch.  You could also put other numbers here.  I will be making another set for some first graders who need practice pulling through decades.  This one might only contain 8 circles and have the numbers from 57-64.  If I was making one of these for second graders, it might contain numbers that pull through a century such as 297-306.  If I wanted to make one for a third grader, I might use skip counting numbers to work on multiplication.

I have tried this out on a few kids and here is what I have discovered.

When given to a 5 year old, her first instinct was to line up the numbers in sequential order.  
Another 5 year old put the numbers in order around the perimeter and used the black pieces and eyes to make a design in the middle.  

Another kid put them in order in a long line and then made a worm out of them.  

The entire task fits in a quart size Ziploc bag and is ready to be added to a browse box or taken out when a student needs an activity to keep them busy and learning.  

After sitting with kids and showing them how to put the numbers in order and make a caterpillar, they were very successful.  Without instruction, they did tend to focus on the numbers and putting them in order and that is the main goal for this activity anyway!

I will be sharing more ideas for busy bags and browse boxes for a variety of grades in the coming weeks so stay tuned! The easiest way to get updates is to like me on Facebook!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Monday Math Literature Volume 53

Welcome to year 2 of Monday Math Literature!  If you missed last week's post that contains the grand list of almost 100 math literature books reviewed on this blog, you can click on the Math Literature tab at the top of this page to access it anytime.  It is free to download or you can just peruse it online.

Today I want to share with you one of my very favorite books for teaching 3-D shapes.  It is by the very talented Cindy Neuschwander who has written several of my favorite math literature books.  You might have read some of her Sir Cumference books. 


In this story two siblings go on a trip to Egypt with their parents.  They accidentally get trapped in a pyramid and have to use the hieroglyphics on the walls to help them find the way out.  The clues are all about different geometric solids and the pair uses what they know about them to answer the riddles and get out of the pyramid.

It is a very engaging story, and kids get hooked in quite well.  There are quite a few words on each page, but the pace is excellent and kids definitely remain engaged.   It is an excellent addition to any unit on 3-D geometry and reviews the different shapes as well as terms such as faces and vertices.  I have used it in grades 1-4 with great results.

The next time I do this lesson in the classroom, I plan on using my shape posters to have kids do a 3-D shape hunt around the classroom.  I will spread out the posters around the room and have kids bring examples of each type of shape back to the poster that it matches.

My 3-D shape posters are available in red, green, purple and blue!
You might also want to check out this lesson that combines literature and 3-D shapes!

Does anyone have any other recommendations for children's literature that can be used to for a 3-D shape hunt?

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Teach Like a Pirate Book Study Part 3: Transformation and Enthusiasm

Welcome to part three of Teach Like a Pirate Book Study!  It is not to late to join in, so if you are looking for some inspiration for your teaching, grab a copy of the book and join our discussion!  Feel free to leave your discussion in the comments or if you have a blog and want to do a post about it, leave a link in the comments.  I have been working on capturing my creativity since last week's reading.  Check out these fun number sticks I made!

Here is the posting schedule

Clip art by Amanda Wittenborn


The focus of this section is all about knowing what you want your classroom to be like and how you want your students to feel about your class.  "You have to have a vision of what you want your ideal classroom looks like if you want to have any hope of creating it." By thinking about what your ideal classroom looks like, you can identify steps you need to take to realize your vision.  Burgess suggests writing a letter from a fictional student describing your class.  What things do you want kids to be saying about your teaching style.  Now think about what you need to do in order for that to become a reality!  I want kids to come away from my class with the realization that math is fun and solving problems can be entertaining.  I also want them to realize that math is all around them and that number sense is the key to solving problems.  

In order to do all of this, you have to ask yourself if your class is worth being in there.  "If your students didn't have to be there, would you be teaching to an empty room?"  Once you can answer that question with a resounding yes it is time to think about, "Do you have any lessons you could sell tickets for?"  That is really taking it to a positive, engaged and passionate experience!  To accomplish these two questions you must start by framing your material and  your class positively.  "Don't position your materials as if it is awful-tasting medicine!  Position your content as if it's amazing!  Give motivating reasons why the material is important to know."  To me, a lot of this goes back to having passion for your subject and your teaching.  

I want to work on creating more lessons I could sell tickets to!


"It is no accident that the cornerstones of the Teach Like a PIRATE system are Passion and Enthusiasm." 

This section is right up there with the section on Passion.  Like Burgess, I think passion and enthusiasm are the most important things for a teacher to have.  I think passion and enthusiasm are contagious and when you have them in abundance they can spread to your colleagues, your students and your school community.  I know if you asked one of my students what they think I do well, their response will have something to do with my passion or enthusiasm for teaching.  If you think you might be lacking in one of these areas, the advice to fake it till you make it might be cliche but it really does work.  I used to be so shy and quiet and would never speak up in front of people or argue for what I think is right.  I decided one day to pretend I was enthusiastic and confident about speaking in public and I faked it so well the response was amazing.  After that it got easier and easier to speak in front of people and now I actually seek out opportunities to do this instead of hiding in the back.  It is a great way to spread passion and enthusiasm.  

I look forward to reading what others thought about these two sections!  Next week we will take a look at how to craft engaging lessons!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Quick and Fun Math Practice for Little Kids

As I have been doing this book study on Teach Like a Pirate, I have been thinking a lot about what the author says about creativity and have been trying to capture my creative ideas in a way that makes it easy for me to add creativity to my lessons.  One of the things I really like using in the classroom is a browse box for math.  This is similar to a browse box for literacy but instead of just right books it is full of just right math activities.  It works well with guided math, during transitions and any time there are a few minutes to spare.  They are a great way to get kids to work independently and a huge opportunity for teachers to provide practice.
I also realized I have not yet written a blog post about browse boxes for math so expect more details about them in the coming weeks.  Today I want to show you one of the activities I have been busy creating that will find its way into browse boxes this year.  I have been spending a lot of time with some kids who will be entering Kindergarten in the fall and their thirst for knowledge and interest in number have really helped spark some creative ideas.  

 I am currently calling these counting sticks but am working on coming up with something a little more creative!  I am sure as I use them with more kids, they will get a fun new name.  There are many ways to use these sticks.  So far I have had kids put them in order, read me the numbers, find me a number that I ask for and do the paperclip job like you can see in the picture above.  The sticks are magnetic and the ultimate task for kids who are ready for this to be in their browse box would be to take the sticks out, put them in order and then place the given number of paperclips on each stick.  It is a great way to work on ordering numbers, one to one correspondence, and subitizing.  

If you want to make a set for your classroom or your own children, it is quick and easy!

Colored Craft Sticks: I bought a box of these 3 years ago and keep finding more uses for them!
Half Inch Magnetic Tape
Number Stickers: I got these glittery foam ones at the Dollar Tree
40 small paperclips
Hot glue gun (the stickers magnetic strips are sticky but I glued them just in case!)

It takes about 5 minutes to put these together.  Just stick or glue on the magnetic tape, stick on the stickers and you are ready to go!

Here they are in action!  My tester kiddo was putting the paperclips on vertically.  She figured out that she needed to try something different when she got to the 5 strip. 
These store nicely in a ziploc bag.  

Stay tuned for more great activities for browse boxes and busy bags!

Here is a peak at my next post in this series!
Click here to check out my post about making this ordering numbers caterpillar!  

Want to see how I took these sticks to the next level?  Here are some ideas for using them to work on combinations of numbers.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Guided Math in Action Book Study: Chapters 7 and 8

Welcome to my guided math book study!  It is not to late to join in!  Every week, I will provide the links to past posts so if you are just finding this book study you can jump right in!

July 2   Chapters 1 and 2
July 9   Chapters 3 and 4
July 30 Chapter 9

Chapter 7: Building Mathematical Proficiency in Guided Math Groups

To me, this quote sums up this section pretty well.  The big idea here is that being proficient in math means more than just being able to memorize procedures.  The five components of mathematical proficiency outlined in the National Research Council's Adding It Up: Helping Children Learn Mathematics are discussed in detail.  If you have not read a lot about these 5 strands, this chapter is worth a close look!  It is a great time to look at your own teaching practice and see how you are doing at including each strand.  Here is a peak at the 5 strands.

1) Conceptual Understanding
2) Procedural Fluency
3) Strategic Competence
4) Adaptive Reasoning
5) Mathematical Disposition

These strands are all intertwined and to be successful in mathematics, you really need students to be working on all strands.  One of my favorite teachers is always saying "you can't have one without the other" and I always agree with this statement. 

Chapter 8: What Are the Other Kids Doing?

This is probably the biggest question I get asked by other teachers and parents when they first hear about guided math.  The message I got loud and clear from this chapter and from my own experiences with guided math is that it is vitally important for kids to be able to work independently.  It really is something that teachers need to strategically teach kids how to do.  They also need work at their own level in order to be successful at independent practice. "When all students are given the same work, some can do it and others can't.  When students can't do the work, they get off task and disrupt the learning environment for everyone."                                                                                                                                                                                                              The other huge idea in this chapter is all the different types of centers you can have during math workshop.  I love that so many aspects of math learning that make it fun and exciting can be included.  I write a lot about great math literature and I love the idea of using some of this during guided math time and it is definitely something I will be exploring more.  
What are your thoughts on this week's chapters?  Please respond in the comments below!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Monday Math Literature Volume 52!

Does that say Volume 52?!?!?!?!  You read it right!  This is my 52 installment of Monday Math Literature which means this has been going on for an entire year!  You would think I would have run out of things to say by now but I really haven't.  I started this series doing quick reviews of some of my favorite math literature books and it has evolved into much more.  My posts have gotten much more in depth and I have been so inspired to build whole lessons off a piece of literature.  I have shown some of the lessons from the Math and Literature series and even come up with some of my own ideas for using regular literature books in a math context.  Today I want to do something a little different to celebrate a full year of math literature posts.
I have spent several hours compiling all of the math literature posts from the last year and organizing them by topic.  You can check the list out on the page below or download the entire thing from Google docs.  It will also be available on the Math Literature tab at the top of my blog! 
The topics include geometry, measurement, addition, subtraction, fractions, counting, 100th day of school and more!  

I look forward to continuing to share with you how I use literature to enhance math class!

Which book on this list is your favorite?

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Teach Like a Pirate Book Study Part 2: Rapport, Ask and Analyze

Clip Art by Amanda Wittenborn

Welcome to part two of Teach Like a Pirate Book Study!  It is not to late to join in, so if you are looking for some inspiration for your teaching, grab a copy of the book and join our discussion!  Feel free to leave your discussion in the comments or if you have a blog and want to do a post about it, leave a link in the comments.  

Here is the posting schedule


I really enjoyed reading the section and had the biggest smile on my face while doing it.  The level of energy and enthusiasm the author has for his students reminds me of my own favorite high school teacher.  His plan for the first 3 days of school is a sure way to get to know your students better and kick of your year in a high energy and fun way!

The big take away from this chapter for me is that you have to care about and be involved in your students' lives.  You need to get to know your students in order to effectively engage them.  I think this is the most difficult at the high school level where students have so many teachers each day.  For those teachers who are in a self contained room with the same kids all day I think this can be much easier.

My own situation is a bit unique because I see kids for about an hour a day like high school teacher but I see them over a period of years as well.  I think that the rapport I have with my students is the backbone of my success as a teacher.  I have had the opportunity to work with kids an hour a day starting in Kindergarten and going up through sixth grade.  It is truly amazing the level of rapport you can have with a kid when you have such a long term relationship with them.  Being invested in them from an early age and seeing them grow up builds a level of rapport that is hard to replicate.

I know many people who work in a job like mine are seen more as an interventionist than as a co-teacher.  It can be hard for them to build rapport with a whole class and if their groups change frequently they may be seeing a huge number of kids and for very short term commitments.  Because of my decision to try to do push-in interventions whenever possible I have much more opportunity to build rapport with my kids.  

Ask and Analyze

This section is all about the creative process.  The author does a great job of outlining some examples of how all people can be creative.  No one is creative by accident it takes time, energy and effort to be creative.  "Creative ideas don't come out of the blue; they came from engaging in the creative process.  That critical process starts when you ask the right types of questions and then actively seek the answers." 

There is also a strong focus in this section on asking good questions.  "The quality of your questions determines the quality of your answers, and the type of question determines the type of ideas your brain will receive and conceive."  I completely agree with these ideas.  I feel like I became a much better teacher when I started focusing on the types of questions I was asking my students and making sure I was asking myself questions about my lessons.  

One of the reasons I started this blog was to capture my good and not so good teaching moments.  I have a great memory but I still can't remember every single thing I liked, loved or hated about a lesson.  Back when I started this blog I was the only person who was reading it and it really was just a place to capture my ideas.  Now that others read my blog, it still is a place for me to capture ideas but now I just use better pictures and cuter graphics and links back to my other posts.  When I am planning a lesson now, I can search my posts for keywords and remind myself about how I did a particular lesson or intervention in the past or how I can do it in the future. 

Because of my blog, I feel like I am much better at noticing when I have a creative idea.  These ideas really are fleeting though and if they don't get written down, they tend to be lost forever.  Even writing down a few words can help me think of the idea later.  I do this very simply by using the notes app on my iPad which I usually have with me.  These quick little notes about lessons and ideas or tweaks really help move my teaching forward.  So does reading great books like this one!

I look forward to reading everyone's thoughts on rapport and the creative process!