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Sunday, November 8, 2015

Announcing Movin' It Math!

About 6 years ago, I came up with a game to get my students up and moving around during math class. I called it Movin' It Math and made many versions on index cards. As the years have passed and beautiful clip art and desktop publishing has gotten easier, my cards have migrated to computer generated. Over the last 11 months, I have been working on getting them in a shareable format. This weekend after many hours of putting final touches on, I have released my first 4 sets. Each set includes 40 cards, directions for Movin' It Math and 10 other activities you can use these cards for. These cards are the ones I find myself using over and over again.  We have been using them everyday in K and many days at the beginning of grade 1! 

I have many more versions of Movin' It Math that are sitting as files on my computer waiting for finishing touches.  This game as spanned my classes K-6.  I have cards for addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, finding fractors, fractions, classifying 2-D and 3-D shapes, classifying angles, geometry terms and more.  I am excited to share these with you in the coming weeks.  

Here is a peek at the rules of the game and how I have been using these cards with K&1 students over the past 2 months.  My first grade students are pretty fluent with these numbers now but I see many more months of great activities for K kids as they transition from learning numbers 1-10 to learning numbers 11-20

Movin' It Math!

The Caller
This game is a fun way to practice math for a whole class.  Before playing this game, you will want to make sure your students are familiar with these cards.  There are 40 cards in each set.  Use the representations your students are most familiar with.  You will  need one less card than the number of kids who are playing this game.  Poly spots are VERY handy for playing this game  but not required.  If you have poly spots, have kids stand with their toes on the edge of the spot but not covering the card.  If you do not have poly spots, have kids stand with one foot on either side of the card.  You will need the small numeral cards for this game.  Cut the numeral cards apart and put them in a container that your students can put their hands into. 

Toes on Spot
To play the game, choose one kid to be the caller.  This kid stands by the bucket with the small cards in it.  The rest of the kids go find a spot and put their toes on it.  When kids get to a spot, have them figure out what their card is (and keep it to themselves).  The caller reaches into the bucket, pulls out a card and says the number loudly.  If a kid is on a spot with the number that was called, they are SAFE and don’t move.  Everyone else has to move to a new spot.  The caller also goes and takes any spot.  One kid will be left without a spot.  This kid is the caller for the next round.  They go to the bucket, pull out another of the small numeral cards and say that number loudly.  Anyone who has that number on their card is SAFE and doesn’t move.  The rest of the kids need to move to a new spot and figure out what number is on their new spot.  The caller also takes a spot.   The caller is continuously changing with each round.   You can keep playing rounds in this way until your students have had enough.  There is no winner or end to this game. 

If you don't have spots....
There are many ways to adapt this game to fit the size of your class.  I have also used it with a small group but find it most successful when there are at least 5 kids.  When kids are new to this game, especially if they are young or have a hard time listening to directions, I will teach them the game in a group of 5 or so kids and we will play as a whole group after kids have had some experience on a smaller scale. 

If you find your kids are not moving around trying to find another spot because they all want to be the caller, you can adapt this game by having all kids have a spot and being the caller yourself.  This works really well for some groups of kids.  You can also use call sticks to pick a caller for each round.
Take it outside!
This game can work in the classroom if you have some open space but works really well in a gymnasium or a large open space.  This game is also great to play outside!  If you are playing it outside, having the poly spots makes it much easier.  It keeps the cards from getting muddy/dirty and a little piece of tape between the card and the spot and the wind isn’t a problem.  If you are doing it outside without poly spots, make sure there isn’t any wind!

Once kids are familiar with this game, you can switch out the cards for more challenging ones as the year goes on.  To see all the Movin’ it Math cards available, click here. (At this time, I am just getting started posting these so more will become available each week!)

The Cards That Keep Going

When I first started out, I had one way to use these cards.  I quickly learned that if only used each set of cards I made one way, I would be spending a lot of time making cards.  Because of this, these cards have evolved into something I use over and over again. In the following pictures, I will share with you some of the other ways I use these cards. 


A great way to work on subitizing!

Go Fish

A game that is easy to teach and valuable to know!  Any 2 cards that represent the same number can be a pair!


A fun way to introduce and practice using the <, > and = symbols.  We like to play with the rule that whoever has less gets to keep both cards!


I spent hours when I was in sixth grade playing the solitaire card game pyramid 13.  In this version of pyramid, we find pairs of cards that represent the same number.  

Flip and Tally

This years' first grade group is crazy for tallying and keeping track.  I made up this little workstation as a great way to incorporate that.  I tried it out with some K kids this week and it was a bit challenging for some but we are working on it!

Sorting Cards

This is simple but kids seem to really like it.  We pull out the numeral cards, work together to put them in order across the top of a table or in the first row of a pocket chart.  Then we pass out all the cards and kids put them where they belong.  Then we take a few minutes to look at the cards as a group and fix any that are wrong.  If you take some of the cards out of the deck, this activity can lead to a nice introduction to ideas about graphing. 

Find a ____

This is my adapted version of Movin' It Math that I like to play with my intervention groups.  I put out some dots and some cards and ask kids to find a number.  After each kid is on a representation of that number, I ask them to find another one.  It is a great way to get a small group moving! When it is pick up time, I have each kid pick up all the representations of a given number. 

Each Movin' It Math resource includes more ways we use these cards in the classroom and much more detail about how to play each of the games above.

Here are the 4 sets released so far!

Want all 4 sets?  Click on the picture below to check out the money saving bundle!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Conference Time!

We are 7 weeks into the school year and gearing up for parent teacher conferences later this week.  In our school, we try to schedule all conferences on a Thursday evening or Friday morning.  This way if multiple folks need to be involved in the conference, we are all in the building at the same time. The evening hours also work much better for parents.  

As the math specialist I get invited to attend the difficult conferences.  If a student is behind or in some cases very ahead of their peers, I will often be asked to join the conference.  Classroom teachers also invite me when they know parents have specific concerns or when it is a student I have a lot of contact with.  Sometimes I am asked to sit in on a conference because the parents are very difficult or have expressed opinions about their students math learning that do not show understanding of how or why we are teaching math as we do.  Depending on the reason for the conference and what the concerns are, I have many approaches but here are a few things I always do in conference situations.

- I like to start on a positive note by sharing a recent piece of student work that illustrates something they can do well or something that shows how far they have come.  Because I do so much formative assessment, I have a lot of student work samples available to choose from and can always find something positive.
- I then like to have parents share how they think their child is doing and any concerns they have.
- I am all about data driven decision making so then I will share any assessments.  For primary students this often includes individual interviews, especially if a student is behind.  I go over the current assessment results and show their progress over time if applicable. 
- I show other student work and point out specifically how the work illustrates them progressing or not progressing toward meeting the standard.  I also like to explain what the next steps are in terms of what we are working on next.
- I prepare myself to answer the hard questions.  Why are you teaching it this way instead of that way?  These big questions parents have when they are new to my school or my way of thinking about math used to really challenge me.  As I have become more experienced and read more research on math education  I have been better prepared to answer these questions.  I like to show parents that it isn't MY way of teaching that I am going for but rather what the research says works.  
- I focus on the big mathematical ideas for that grade.  For each grade level I can think of 3-5 things that are the most important things kids have and understand in order for them to be successful in the next grade.  If a student is behind, I focus the conference on the most important skills and make sure my discussion focuses on how to move a student forward with these big ideas.

This year, in addition to my role as a math specialist (part interventionist and part coach), I have 2 groups of students that I am doing the primary math instruction for.  This means that I will hopefully get to meet with the parents of kids in these groups because their classroom teachers don't see them for math.  To help out with ones I might miss and to keep the classroom teachers up to speed on what their students are doing in math, I have been gathering data and putting together some things that can be shared with parents.  One of the things I created for my fourth grade group was this quick reflection on their learning.  I loved seeing their responses and it gave me great information about how they are feeling about math!

Want to use this with your students?  Click on the picture to get it from Google Drive. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Formative Assessment for Combinations of 10

The school year is in full swing in my neck of the woods and we have been hard at work doing assessments, setting up groups and even getting some teaching in! 
My second graders have been looking at addition and subtraction strategies for facts to 20.  One of my top priorities for this unit is making sure kids are solid with combinations of 10 by the middle of the unit.  Without being solid with combinations of 10, some of the most efficient strategies for the facts between 10 and 20 are much more challenging for kids to develop.  We talk about the friends of 10 from the first day of the unit and incorporate games like make 10 go fish, flip and write, pyramid,  and popper cups.  My second graders are getting really good at these!  This morning, I was thinking they all seemed fluent but I wanted a quick way to check without another formal assessment. Today I was using One Big Pair of Underwear to introduce the difference model for subtraction.  Kids already had out white boards, makers and erasers.  As I was finishing up the whole group lesson and transitioning to math station and guided math groups, I had kids quickly write down as many of the friends of 10 that they could think of in 1 minute.  This let me see who was really fluent and to make sure there were not kids who were looking at other kids boards to get the answers.  For the most part, kids were very quick and the wandering eyes didn't happen until kids were done or close to it.  It was interesting to see which kids organized their equations and which kids wrote equations in a seemingly random way.  

To finish this up and give kids one more chance to practice combinations of 10, we watched this Friends of 10 song and as each combination of 10 appeared on the screen, they erased that combination on their board.  This made them really pay attention to the song and gave them one more chance to practice.  I am so pleased with the progress my second graders have made in this area and am looking forward to seeing them use this skill to develop other strategies! 

How are your students doing with fact fluency? How are you doing at finishing up those beginning of the year assessments? Please respond in the comments below or head over to my Facebook page to leave your thoughts!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Fly on the Math Teacher's Wall: Buzz Worthy Back to School Blog Hop

     There is just something about back to school time that makes everything seem so fresh and new.  I love getting to know new students and seeing how much my old students have grown and changed.  We have been back in action for 3 days and I think I had forgotten how tired the first week of school makes me!  My classroom is ready, I am well on my way to establishing routines with my students and hopefully I will be back to blogging regularly!  Today I am linking up with my math blogger friends to bring you tips for getting your math class off to a great start!  I want to share with you some of the ways I set up my classroom and some of the routines I teach to help increase math talk in my classroom.  

Wait Time

One of the best things you can do to increase the math talk in your classroom is to be very aware of your wait time.  When you ask a question or listen to a student's response, how many seconds are you giving yourself and your students before you start talking again?  Some studies have shown wait time in the average classroom is about 1.5 seconds.  Not a lot of thinking can happen that fast!  Being aware of your wait time and practicing it from the first day of school will make you and your students much  more comfortable and you will notice an increase in the number of participants.  You might also notice that taking a few extra seconds to think about what a student says before responding or hearing from another student will increase your awareness of what students understand and are able to do.  I personally aim for a wait time of 10 seconds.  Don't be afraid to watch the clock or count to yourself when you are first starting out!


When you re-voice a students' idea, it give your students a chance to hear the idea again and the student who shared it a chance to clarify their thinking.  When you have students re-voice each other's ideas, you give them the opportunity to take another person's perspective and hold them accountable for listening to each other.  Re-voicing can also slow the conversation down a bit so that kids can focus on the big ideas and those who require more think time a chance to clarify their thoughts.  

Room Set Up

When you are setting up your room for the back to school season or rearranging it for a fresh outlook as the school year continues, think about the spaces your students will be in for math talk.  If you really want kids to be talking to each other, make sure the way your room is set up reflects this.  I like having options for kids to talk at tables as well as space on the floor where we can do our number talks and other math discussions.   If you are seeing that kids will answer questions and engage with you but not with each other, I highly recommend sitting kids in a circle and removing yourself to the outside of the circle to get things going.  Once kids are more used to talking to each other and not just talking to you, I don't find this as necessary but it really helps when they are first starting out.  Also, remember to think about your wait time.  Kids will never have a chance to respond to other students if you are always jumping right in with a comment!

Pair Share 

If I had to pick a favorite strategy for getting kids talking about math, pair sharing would be my number one.  Giving kids a chance to talk to one or two other kids about how they solved a problem or what they were thinking gives them a chance to rehearse sharing their ideas and refine their plan for sharing their strategy.  Pair share can also help kids practice listening to another person's ideas and comparing them to their own.  I also like to hold kids accountable for listening to others so I often have them share their partner's strategy instead of their own when we come back to a whole group discussion.

Provide Focus Vocabulary

One of the reasons you want kids talking about math is to get them extra practice using math vocabulary.  I like using vocab cards to help kids focus on new words.  I will often use a magnet to attach focus words to the white board when we are discussing them.  If you are looking for vocabulary cards for grades K-8, check out this awesome (and free!) resource.  My vocabulary cards have the word and picture on the front and we write the definition on the back as a class.  That way it is in their words but it is there if they need it.  

I hope these ideas will help you get started setting up math talk in your classroom.  If you are looking for further reading on this subject, you should check out Talk Moves: a Teacher's Guide for Using Classroom Discussion in Math.  This book is full of ideas for getting kids talking across all kinds of math settings.  Great for grades K-6.  It also includes a DVD with video clips so you can see many of the ideas in action.  

Head over to The Research Based Classroom to check out more ideas for setting up your math class for back to school! 

Monday, August 3, 2015

Monday Made It: Scrabble Math Bulletin Board Freebie

I have 3 more weeks of summer vacation but I have already been back in the classroom getting things ready!   When you have 3 small kids at home you have to take every second you can to stop by the classroom and get stuff done.  I have moved to a new and much larger room this year and have inherited a bunch of stuff because we are down a few classrooms this year as our enrollment has declined.  I spent a full day in the classroom last week and managed to pull together a few things. 

My big accomplishment for this week was creating and assembling a great bulletin board.  I have been thinking about different board games I love and how to use them in my classroom decor.  I have always loved scrabble but have never found a way to use it in a math classroom.  One night on TPT, I stumbled upon a Scrabble font and decided to create my own math vocab bulletin board out of scrabble looking tiles.  Here it is:

You can head to my TPT store and grab this set for FREE!  I would love if you leave feedback! 

I made the scrabble letters I needed with this great font from Darcy Baldwin Fonts.   Most of her fonts are free for personal use but you can also purchase commercial licences if you want to use them in a product like I did.  

The border for this bulletin board is part of an old Uno deck I found in at a yard sale this summer.  I love the way it incorporates numbers and is so colorful.  

I can't wait to show this bulletin board off to my students and have been brainstorming ways to make it interactive.  Here is what I have come up with so far:

What word has the greatest points value?
Which word is worth the least amount of points?
Find a word that you have never heard before and look it up in the math dictionary. 

Any other ideas?  

Head over to 4th Grade Frolics for more #MondayMadeIt ideas! 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Beyond Invert and Multiply Book Study Part 4

We have made it to our fourth and final week of this book study!  It has been a great summer learning about fractions and I am excited to be back in the classroom putting what I have learned to good use.  If you have missed previous posts, you can check them out by clicking on the links below

July 15th Part 2: Addition and Subtraction with Fractions
July 22nd Part 3: Multiplication and Division with Fractions

Chapter 8 Developing Awareness: Six Strategies for Fostering Student Talk About Fractions

This section of the book steps away from the ideas about developing fraction reasoning and instead focuses on how to structure your class so that you can provide opportunities for kids to talk about fractions.  A lot of the strategies presented in this section are good teaching strategies that are also very beneficial classroom practices in general.  

Strategy 1: Using Strategic Tasks

If you want your students to build conceptual knowledge about fractions rather than just learning the steps of a formalized procedure, you need to make sure you are giving them tasks that have something worth talking about.  They might be open ended, able to be solved in multiple ways and will make your students think.  Selecting a task that they can use some prior knowledge to build up from is also a good idea.  I think the ability to pick strategic tasks comes with time and practice.  If the task you pick isn't working the way you want it to, try something else!

Strategy 2: Creating Records of Thinking

Having students record their thinking or ideas in some way is a great way to share their thinking with classmates and to help organize their thoughts.  I used to have kids copy down their thinking on an overhead transparency or on the board when it was time to share ideas.  Now that I have a document camera in every room, this has gotten so much easier to share what kids are thinking.  Some kids might need help recording their thinking when they are first starting out but it is a great strategy for building student talk.

Strategy 3: Building Visual Models

Get great math tools into your students hands!  Fraction manipulatives such as fraction strips, or Cuisenaire rods as well as number lines are a great way to build conceptual understanding and engage kids in a hands on way.  

Strategy 4: Reasoning with Benchmarks and the Number Line

I love how using benchmarks helps kids think about their calculations and the reasonableness of their answers.  Thinking about how close a number is to 1/2 or 1 can really help kids see if their answers make sense.  This is estimation at its finest.  

Strategy 5: Using Talk Moves

Out of all the talk moves described in this chapter, wait time was the one I needed to work on the most.  I was one of those teachers who would ask a question and expect an immediate response.  Since purposefully working on my wait time, I have noticed a huge difference in the number of kids who are ready to participate.  For a lot more about talk moves, check out this book.  

Strategy 6: Asking Students to Turn and Talk

This is one of my favorite strategies as a teacher and as a learner.  When I have a chance to talk to someone about my ideas, it helps me organize them, develop them and be better able to articulate my thinking.  I find the same is true for my students and I use turn and talk many times each day.  

How do you incorporate student talk in your fraction lessons?

Monday, July 27, 2015

Monday Made It: Teacher Essentials Kit

Back to school fever seems to have gripped the nation!  I know some schools go back next week but I have 3 more blissful weeks left!  However, I am already headed into back to school mode and spent this morning shopping and creating.  I have many more made its to accomplish before back to school but today I want to share with you one I managed to get done today.  When you are done head over to 4th Grade Frolics for a lot of back to school inspiration.  
I was cruising around the dollar store this morning getting my back to school organizational essentials.  I was thinking about all the things I needed to get done at home and in my classroom before I have even less time.  One thing I had been thinking about was creating an emergency box of essentials to keep in my classroom.  I have had various supplies stuffed into my filing cabinet for years but I really wanted to do this in a more organized fashion.  Because I have already dropped a lot of my own cash on classroom essentials, I wanted to keep this low budget.  I picked all of this stuff up at the Dollar Tree and the grand total was $10 and about 10 minutes of time.

Here is the list of essentials I included:
- Plastic box to hold it all
- Mini sewing kit
- Tylenol
- Tums
- Cough drops
- Travel toothbrush & toothpaste
- Mini hairbrush & hair ties
- Sugar free gum
- 2 kinds of hair clips
- Mini deodorant 

This covers the essentials for me!  I will be set when I leave the house without brushing my hair or when I finish my coffee on the way to work and really need to brush my teeth.  It will also be great to have a sewing kit because I have been known to rip off buttons or seams while at work.  I also but in the essentials for when I am not feeling well.  I am feeling much more prepared for back to school!  This would also make an excellent gift for a teacher friend.  I made one for a friend who is starting her first teaching job.  It includes the same things I put in mine, and I just tied a little bow around it for presentation.  

What are you working on this week?  

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Beyond Invert and Multiply Book Study Part 3

Welcome to week 3 of our Beyond Invert and Multiply book study!  Last week, we looked at decomposing numbers to help with fraction addition and examined the 6 mistakes kids often make when subtracting fractions and mixed numbers.  That post got lost in cyber space for a few days but is back in action now so if you missed it, be sure to check it out

Here is the posting schedule. 
July 15th Part 2: Addition and Subtraction with Fractions
July 22nd Part 3: Multiplication and Division with Fractions
July 29th Part 4: Discourse with Fractions

Chapter 5 Developing Awareness: Multiplication and Division Problem Types

Several years ago when reading the Common Core standards, I stumbled upon a few tables in the glossary that I found so interesting.  One was the table about the different problem types for addition and subtraction word problems that we talked about 2 weeks ago and the other was the table for the problem types for multiplication and division that is featured in this week's reading.  Here is the table they are referring to: 
If you need to see a larger or easy to print version of this table, check it out here
I printed this table and tacked it to my planning bulletin board and began making over my math class.  I started at the fact level before moving up to multi digit multiplication and division and finally fractions and decimals.  Now my students get to experience all 9 problem types at each level.  Some problem types are harder than others especially if your students have never been exposed to that type of problem.  You can read more about how I address these problem types here. I encourage all teachers to take a good look at their curriculum and see what problem types are not being represented.  Make sure your fraction multiplication and division units contain a diverse group of problems!

Chapter 6 Making Sense: Multiplication with Fractions 

This chapter got me excited for teaching fractions this fall!  I know I will be working with an intervention group of sixth graders right off this fall and there were so many ideas in here that made me think about this group.  I still have 31 days before I am due back at school but this book is really making me think about heading back!

I loved the term "constructive struggling" used at the beginning of the chapter.  Apparently this term is used in the book Faster Isn't Smarter which looks like a book I will definitely have to check out!  I have seen some of students' best ideas come from constructive struggling yet it can be so hard for teachers to let kids struggle.  I used to be that teacher who couldn't stand to see kids struggle and would jump in way to soon.  This is something I worked on with peer conferencing a few years back and I still like to check in with colleagues when we are co-teaching about when we should jump in and when we should leave kids with a little disequilibrium.  

The research around how kids learn fraction multiplication always interests me and it seems each time I read a new fraction book, I get a new take on how to teach it better.  I really liked the ideas presented about teaching fraction multiplication (and multiplication in general) from a measurement standpoint.  I always struggle to help kids understand how finding a fraction of a fraction translates to multiplication because I have never been able to connect it to whole number multiplication.  On page 9, this paragraph made me stop in my tracks: "Given the problem 4 X 3, if one considers a multi-unit length of 4, iterated three times or a multi-unit length of 3 iterated four times, one arrives at 12.  This could be thought of as "four iterations of length 3" or "three iterations of length 4" or the shorter "four of 3" or "three of 4."" There is my example of how the word of can be used in whole number multiplication.  Right there!  I can't wait to see how this will help me this year!

Next week we will be wrapping up this book study and I will be getting busy preparing for back to school!  Look for a lot more blog posts again in August as I tackle the beginning of the year things and get back to teaching! 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Beyond Invert and Multiply Book Study Part 2

Welcome to week 2 of our Beyond Invert and Multiply book study!  Last week, we looked at some research around fractions and dove into the 12 different problem types for addition and subtraction word problems.  This week we will be taking a closer look at fraction addition and subtraction.  
Here is the posting schedule. 
July 15th Part 2: Addition and Subtraction with Fractions
July 22nd Part 3: Multiplication and Division with Fractions
July 29th Part 4: Discourse with Fractions

Chapter 3: Making Sense: Addition with Fractions

Fraction addition used to be my enemy.  I remember struggling with fraction addition more than I struggled with any other topic in elementary school math.  I learned it in such a rote and procedural way and it didn't make a lot of sense to me.  Now when I think back to that experience and I read some of the research on fraction addition, I see myself in the classic cases of how not to teach fractions.  I was that kid who really didn't know what estimating was or how to do it and I had no sense of the magnitude of fractions.  In elementary school I would have really struggled with the problem they presented on page 42; "Estimate the answer to 12/13 + 7/8.  You will not have time to solve the problem using pencil and paper."   This is presented in a multiple choice format with the choices being 1, 2, 19, 21 and I don't know.  I would have been in the 76% of kids who could not answer this question correctly.

So how do I keep my students from following in my footsteps?  First I make sure they have a strong foundation in part to whole reasoning, equivalence and magnitude.  If they are not there yet with these foundational ideas about fractions, I give pull them for booster groups, do additional whole class lessons or meet with them during Guided Math time.  If you are looking for ideas for helping kids develop these foundational understandings, check out Beyond Pizzas and Pies or A Focus on Fractions.

It struck me when reading this chapter how similar fraction addition is to whole number addition.  We often treat it as a brand new topic but I think we miss out on connecting it to what kids already know about whole number addition.  The properties all still hold true and some of the strategies kids developed when learning basic addition can also help them when learning fraction addition.  I feel like the idea of decomposing numbers to make friendly tens and hundreds is something we are doing very well at my school.  However, I don't think that we are using this skill quite as well with fractions.  The video clips from lesson 3.4 really opened my mind to some new ideas to try this year.

My other big take away from this chapter was activity 3.6.  As someone who was terrible at estimating and didn't really get it, this activity would have really helped me out.  I also like that it could be used for any operation with any number.  This is definitely a routine that is getting added to my math classes.  This is the activity where you give students a problem and have them tell you all they can about the answer.  I particularly liked the sentence starters for those students who are stuck:

  • The answer will be more than ______ because _________
  • The answer will be less than ______  because _________
  • The answer will be between _______ and ________ because ________

Chapter 4 Making Sense: Subtraction with Fractions

This chapter really got me thinking about the mistakes kids make when subtracting fractions.  It seems like it as the inverse of addition, subtraction should be very similar but it always seems to trip up a lot more kids.  Here are examples of some of the most common mistakes for fraction subtraction. 

  • Seeing the numerators and denominators as separate whole numbers and subtracting across both of them.  

  • Finding a common denominator but not making the corresponding change to the numerator.

  • When presented with mixed number subtraction, ignoring the fractional part and just subtracting the whole numbers or vice versa. 

  • For a problem where the minuend is a whole number and the subtrahend is a fraction, thinking the whole number has the same denominator as the fraction.

  • The borrowing issues! On the left the student does 4 - 2 but then ignores the fact that is should be 2/4 - 3/4 and switches them around.  On the right, the student borrows a whole and turns it into 10/4. 
  • Context problems!  When writing word problems, there is a thin line between a fraction subtraction a fraction multiplication problem.  I like to give my students this little printable pictured below, have them cut the stories apart on the thin black lines and have them sort them according to which operation they could use to solve them.  Many students think they are the same at first glance.  Look closely!  A few words changed make for a big difference in the operation and approach for solving the problem.  If you want to try these with your students, you can grab them from Google Drive.  
    Grab this freebie here!  
    What mistakes do you see students making with fraction subtraction?  Leave your response in the comments section below or head over to my Facebook page and let us know what you think!