## Friday, February 7, 2020

### Giant Yohaku!

A few years ago, I discovered Yohaku puzzles which are an excellent way to engage all learners in your classroom.  They might be the ultimate low floor, high ceiling math task.  We have used these puzzles in grades 1-6 and revisit them frequently.  They make an excellent addition to math menu and can be accessed by all learners.  They are an easy way to start differentiating your math practice.  Kids love solving Yohaku puzzles and creating their own.  You can access a bunch for free here or check out the collection of books on Amazon

My students had the grand idea to create a GIANT YOHAKU board in our front hallway.  We used paper from our rack of large paper rolls.  They are about one square yard each.  We wanted to laminate them so that we could use dry erase markers on them so we made them as large as our laminator is wide.  After creating a set of Yohaku puzzles that each have multiple correct answers, we made sure we had puzzles that ranged from easy to quite challenging.  We put them up in order from easiest to most difficult and pinned small squares of microfiber cloth and a string with a dry erase marker.  We put up a few signs to invite folks to solve these puzzles.

What happened next was truly amazing.  Despite most kids being exposed to these puzzles within math class over the weeks leading up to this project, these giant puzzles made Yohaku a school community project.  Suddenly, kids from different grades were comparing puzzles and parents got involved since the front hall way is where parents wait to pick up kids.  Even some community members who are not usually part of our school got involved during town wide events.  These puzzles got solved over and over again in many different ways.  Folks were free to erase and start again at any time and the students who helped me with this project and myself would erase them all a few times a week so we could start from scratch.  I wish I had taken a picture of all the different ways these got solved because that itself would have made a great follow up to this!

This week I also started a brand new Facebook group for teachers who want to  start working on ways to differentiate and personalize learning.  It is a place where I will be sharing extra tips and motivation and also a great place to ask questions and learn from other teachers who are walking down the same path.  It is free to join and a great choice for any K-6 teacher who wants to do more to meet the needs of all his or her learners.  We are just getting started so it might move slowly for a week or two but as more teachers join and contribute their ideas it is sure to become a rich mathematical community!

We got a lot of our Valentine's Day favorites out this week and had a great time trying out some new Valentine and winter freebies that are part of our new grades 3-5 math freebie bundle!

Have you ever tried a Yohaku puzzle?  What is your favorite low floor, high ceiling math task?  Please respond in the comments below!

## Thursday, February 6, 2020

### Reflections on Our First Global School Play Day

Today is our first snow day of 2020 and I have to say, it is nice to have an extra day off!  Yesterday was a busy day at my school, we participated in Global School Play Day in the morning and then our students went home and we had professional development in the afternoon.  I have been leading a group of teachers working on differentiating math class, trying out math menu and focusing on the big ideas in math class.  It takes a lot more energy to lead inservice training than it does to just sit and listen so today I am taking a much needed day to slow down, snuggle my babies and reflect on our first Global School Play Day.

First, there were certainly mixed feelings for staff about spending a day "just playing"  but since it was already an early release day for our students and we all know we get way less done when our schedule is interrupted, staff had a generally positive attitude about the whole thing.  The other thing that happened was that many of our classroom teachers were participating in a full day of district led professional development and that meant a LOT of substitutes in our building for the morning.  This meant some shifting about of staff so that there were familiar adults in each space.

Kids were allowed to bring toys from home as long as they had no screens, batteries, plugs or weapons.  This meant a lot of lol dolls, legos and sports equipment made their way into school.  We also have various toys, STEM type building materials and a huge pile of cardboard boxes.  We had a bunch of classrooms open, the gym, the music room and the playground as choices.  We did two sessions and took a break in the middle for kids to go back to their homeroom for snack and attendance.  Kids were welcome to move about the building freely.  Areas of the building that were closed had closed doors and kids knew ahead of time which spaces would be open.

Adults were asked to stay out of the way unless behavior became unsafe or if a kid asked us to play.  Some kids had a hard time settling in at first and moved from room to room looking for friends or the right space to play in.  Some spaces like the gym got to loud for some kids and they went in search of a new spot to play.  In my space, there was a lot of building going on.  Of course my classroom has a lot of different STEM challenge type toys anyways and the kids adore them.  Also many kids brought Legos into my room and dolls.  Pokemon cards were also very popular.  There was also a pile of cardboard boxes in my room and it was amazing how the play changed when kids started dragging those out.

One groups of kids started building the Titanic out of cardboard and tape and within 10 minutes, so many kids were building things with cardboard that we had to get MORE boxes and eventually used every piece of cardboard in the school!  The kids playing with LOL dolls and trucks started building houses and shops.  They started incorporating other objects like digiblocks, small cups, craft sticks and more.  All of the sudden, everyone was building and making stuff to go along with whatever they were playing.  It really reinforces the idea of the book Not a Box and why giving kids time to make and create things is so important.

By the end of the morning, kids were trying to figure out how they could transport their boxes and creations home and what they were going to add onto it and what else they were going to make out of cardboard. There was a spark of creativity and an excitement about play that  was contagious.  I think a lot more kids went home and played the rest of the day instead of going home to sit in front of a screen or play with electronics which is pretty common on these early release days in the middle of winter.

I think our first time trying the Global Day of Play was a success and I am sure we will be doing it again next year.  If you want to join us, you can get more information here!

If you teach grades 3-5, you won't want to miss out on this great bundle of 10 winter and Valentine themed goodies that I put together with some of my math blogger friends!  Head here to sign up and grab this freebie!

## Sunday, February 2, 2020

### Fill Your Math Centers with FUN: 10 FREE Activities for Grades 3-5

Are you feeling like you’re in a winter slump as you head into the month of February?

Although we’re past the busyness of the holidays, we’re not yet into the warmth and sunshine (and home stretch feeling!) that spring brings.

Never fear! I’ve got just the thing to liven up your math lessons and re-engage your students to help you get through the next few weeks.

Several experienced math educators have put together their best freebies for February in one download, just for you.

This collection of 10 FREE games and math challenges for grades 3-5 will save you time and help your kids to practice and review essential math skills.

Some of these downloads have a Valentine’s Day theme (so go ahead and prep those now!), while others simply have a winter theme that you can use all month long.

Math Skills Your Kids Will Use in These Games:

•    Using known facts to solve harder multiplication facts

•    Using the doubling & halving strategy to solve multiplication facts

•    Multiplication & division fact families

•    Finding equivalent fractions & decimals

•    Comparing, adding & subtracting fractions

•    Time & Elapsed time word problems

•    Multiplication & division word problems

Whether you teach 3rd, 4th or 5th grade, you’re bound to find something new and fun to help your kids build number sense and take a break from your normal math routine.