Where the Magic Happens

Saturday, January 21, 2017

How To Use Math Menus in the Primary Classroom

Howdy teacher friends!

Is your classroom teacher centered? Standards centered? Student centered?
I am a firm believer in the power of choice. Ask anyone about  what they want to do over the weekend, and of course, they are going to say they would prefer to have a choice.
My choice?
Sleep in and wake up to the sound of two giggling boys.
I also believe the high expectations is the TRUE one size fits all.

Why is Choice Important?

Choice is the beginning to engagement. If you think about it, your students are going to choose what best fits their learning styles and needs.
Another benefit of choice is a greater sense of independence for the students. What a great feeling! Students work on and create products based on their beliefs, rather than what we, teachers, want them to do. So in other words, when our kiddos have choices in the activities they wish to complete, they are more focused on their learning that leads to their choice or product.

How to Use Menus in the Classroom

There are different ways to use instructional menus in the classroom. I always ask my self:
  • How much background knowledge do my students need?
  • Is this something that they can approach independently?
  • Do I have in my classroom, the materials needed for my students to accomplish their task?

I have been using menus for my students in three different ways:
  • For enrichment and supplementary activities for fast finishers and high achievers.
  • To replace certain activities. I pick and choose what I directly teach and what my students can learn and review through  product menus.
  • After mini-lessons, with the menus driving the accompanying classroom activities. This is a class favorite! My students get to review basic concepts or check for understanding in a very fun way.

Math Menus in My Classroom

I have used math menus in my classroom for a number of years.  More recently, however, I have a number of students who just need more. They need more in terms of challenge and choice. 
Once my students have completed a round of BUILD stations, I meet with them to help them decide on a choice challenge board. Every single choice board contains activities that will  challenge them in the ares of: number sense, word problems, computation, fractions, place value, geometry, measurement, and so may more math concepts.
Each math menu has 6 activities with  a different amount of points. The goal of each choice board is to make a total of  80 points. So they choose the activities to meet their goal.

Getting the Choice Boards

Each one of my monthly BUILD stations includes a total of 5 choice challenge boards. Your students can use them when they are done with their math center tasks. I make a big deal when my students meet their goals by sending home a positive note, or by making a happy pone call to mom or dad.  I usually make sure to mention hugs. snuggles, and some ice cream!
You can click HERE to visit my store and learn more about BUILD stations. You can find the choice boards in each set.

Math Menu Sample


Until next time!

Monday, January 2, 2017

January BUILD Centers for Awesome 2nd Graders

Hey, hey, hey!

Are you all ready and set to tackle your math centers during the month of January? Here in coastal NC we don't get a whole lot of cold and snow, but nonetheless, us weather wimps, always find ourselves quite bored during the cold months. I miss the beach quite a bit.
I personally aim to make every January a more fun than usual month in every area, and my match centers are no exception!

Our BUILD math center routines are a super-dooper important part of our math workshop. I wrote about the BUILD management system here.
 I ALWAYS  want my students to be involved in engaging and rigorous activities when they are not meeting with me during our guided math small groups.

Now let me show you what is inside!
Inside this resource, I have included 3 full rounds of math centers for the whole month of January.


1. B Station: Two-digit Arctic Subtraction --> CCS 2.OA.1

2. U Station: Snow Pals Coin Combination--> CCS 2.MD.8

3. I station: Independent work printables --> CCS 2.NBT.1, 2.NBT.3, 2.NBT.5, 2.MD.8, 2.G.2,      2.NBT.5.

4. L station: Number Sense and Place Value Scoot --> 2.NBT.1, 2.NBT.3

5. D Station: 4 CGI type word problems Interactive notebook pages --> 2.OA.1, 2.NBT.7, 2.MD.6

These are some pictures of the activities in the first round of BUILD centers for January:


6. B Station: Spin a Number String--> 2.NBT.6, 2.NBT.9

7. U Station: Measuring Polar Animals--> 2.MD.3, 2.MD.6

8. I Station: Independent work printables--> 2.NBT.6, 2.NBT.8, 2.NBT.7, 2.NBT.4

9. L Station: Chilly Skip counting --> 2.NBT.A.2

10.D Station: 4 CGI type word problems Interactive notebook pages --> 2.OA.1, 2.NBT.7

These are some pictures of the activities included in the second round of BUILD


11. B Station:  Penguin Number Strings --> 2.NBT.B.5, 2.NBT.6, 2.NBT.9

12. U Station: Measurement Number Riddles --> 2.MD.A.6, 2.OA.1, 2.NBT.7

13. I Station: Independent work printables--> 2.NBT.6, 2.NBT.9, 2.MD.9, 2.NBT.8

14. L Station: 2nd Grade Task Cards--> 2.NBT.A.1, 2.NBT.A.3, 2.NBT.A.5, 2.NBT.B.9

15. D Station: 4 CGI type word problems Interactive notebook pages --> 2.OA.1, 2.NBT.7

These are some of the pictures of the activities in round 3 of BUILD:

At the end of this resource, you will also find this set of choice boards for those kiddos who are fast finishers or high achievers!

Thanks for reading teacher friends! Until next time!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Why We Must Teach Benchmark Numbers

Heeey you!
Aaaah!!! There is no point in apologizing for not blogging for a while. I have been taking a short break from this little blog simply because I cannot do it all.
We are very close to moving into our new home and life has been nothing but busy. Good busy that is. So,  my apologies my dear teacher friend.

During the last couple of months I have been focusing on creating  math BUILD stations for 2nd grade and enhancing my social media a bit. {And little boys, and a husband, and other things of course!} Creating a new set of math stations has me learning a whole lot about foundational math. I have been reading  this book:

Image result for teaching student centered mathematics

My district has "hands-down!" the best lead math teacher in the whole state. She recommended this resource, and as always it is a winner. If you are ever thinking about enriching your knowledge of kick-____ math, then this is the book that you want. No more looking. This is it.

Anyways, one of the things that I have been doing with my 2nd graders this year has to do with identifying, using, and making benchmark numbers. Have you ever heard about them before?

A benchmark number is any multiple of 10, 100, and sometimes multiples of 25. To make it kid friendly, especially for the minds of 2nd graders, I show them how all  the benchmark numbers come from tens, and then we build up to  a more complex understanding as we go.  We also call them "friendly" numbers.
I have written before about the gradual release of responsibility model. {Did that bring you back to your college years?}  Well let me tell ya... your professors were right.
We start the concept by learning how to identify benchmark numbers and knowing what they are in a whole group lesson. I refer to the term "benchmark" numbers as much as possible. I introduce this concept  in the best  way I know: With an interactive anchor chart.

When we are in small groups during guided math, I try to maximize our time together like you would not believe. My teacher soul is at peace when I "kill" my small groups in  literacy and math each day.
One of the ways, in which I maximize our instructional during small groups is by making {and using} mini-anchor charts.
I refer to this mini-anchor chart during guided math groups as needed.

 Our exit ticket for the identification of benchmark numbers is pretty fun and hands-on!

Oh boy! That is a big question. And there are many reasons.  {There are so many that I may only mention a few}

So, these are the ones that I think are winner, winner, chicken dinner.

1. I take the time to teach my students about benchmark numbers because they need to understand how other numbers relate to these "friendly" numbers. This alone is a HUGE step toward number sense and place value development. For example, one of the activities that we do is on a number line. Showing my students benchmark or friendly numbers on a number line shows them  a beginning step towards estimation. Yes, that is right. Estimation y'all!
Think like this: say you have an open number line that goes from 60 to 70. This is a hands-on visual that shows my students  which numbers are closer to 60, which ones are closer to 70, AND which ones are in the middle.

This is the mini-anchor chart that we use during guided math:

We talk and do different demonstrations using white boards. After we have practiced enough and I can tell that my students are showing a super-duper understanding, I give them an exit ticket:

2.  Benchmark numbers are the bomb when it comes to  making addition and subtraction strategies easier.  In order for my students to be able to truly use benchmark numbers in  computations efficiently, they need to be able to subitize and understand parts of a whole first. I used this mini-anchor chart during guided math when I taught 1st grade.

When our students understand the combinations in ONES that make a ten, then it will be SO much easier for them to understand what makes a hundred and what makes a thousand. I use the following mini-anchor charts during guided math and  I display around the classroom for the children's  reference:

Doesn't this make so much sense now? Look at the next one:

I hope you are loving the mini-anchor charts. I keep them in a binder and I use them during small groups. I usually place them over at our math area and the kiddos use them as reference when they are working independently.

3.  Another reason why benchmark numbers are so awesome, is related to property of operations.
 For example, when I teach addition of four two-digit numbers, I must  model and show my students  the associative property of addition.
 My students need a clear understanding of the benefits of "benchmarks," because they need to "look" to pair numbers that when grouped together can be made into a ten.
Look at this example of a mini-anchor chart that I use with my 2nd graders:

I have learned that when I take the time to constantly refer to benchmark numbers and the combinations that make a 10 (which we call compatible numbers), my students get it.  They get it because they know that once you make a 10 or a benchmark, adding and subtracting will certainly be easier. This visual and color coding,  allow my students to see the power of 10.
This is such an important concept, we practice it quite a bit.

We use mats to group our compatible number and solve.

We also use cut up pipe cleaners and make little parentheses with them. We use the little parentheses to explain, understand, and apply the associative property of addition. This activity comes from my math BUILD Stations  for January.

This is our exit ticket:

Truly I can go on and on about benchmark numbers. I will be writing about benchmark numbers and compensating next time.
 Oh, I almost forgot! YOu may download all these mini-anchor charts and exit tickets HERE!!
Until then, let me wish you a happy, relaxing, and awesome winter break.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Word Problems: It's All About the Relationships {and great FREEBIES!}

Heeey you  awesome teacher friend!
I have told you a million times: I am NOT a math person.
Not at all.
I  am an avid reader.
And learner above all.
Oh and I want the best for my students.

Year after year, I look ...
I read...
I find ways...
I reflect.
About word problems.
I know you do too.

Do you feel that when you think you have done a good job teaching word problems, then your students start guessing the heck out of the answers?
Lord have mercy on my soul.
I know you can relate.
It almost seems like my efforts have been in vain.

In NC we have a document  released by the state in which the clear distinctions among the problems are made. You can find this document HERE!
There are also clear distinctions between the kind of of problems that  our students need to master by the end of Kindergarten, first grade, and second grade.

My students struggle every year with word problems. And every year I make an effort to go out of my way to teach them (and make sure that they have learned) different ways to solve them.
I am a firm BELIEVER in the gradual release of responsibility model.
Do you remember your professors in college talking about it? They were not kidding.
Well here's a picture, just in case you are a visual learner like me.

It all begins with showing the kids how "I do it."
Well, if I want to show the kids how "I do it," might as well know the how and why. Right?
I mentioned before that there are different kinds of distinctions among the word problem types.

Wait. What?
Problem types.

They are called CGI word problems. The research behind the problem types is clearly outlined on
Children's Mathematics ~ Cognitively Guided Instruction (or CGI)

Yes, I know. What a geek.
#Notageek #IjustlovewhatIdo
As I am reading this book, there were 4 guiding principles that TRULY made me aware and reflect about the way I teach word problems.

Yes. Obviously. Duuuh. Four different types of word problems.

Was I teaching my students to identify the relationships and actions in word problems?
Are you?
How to go about it?

Classifying. Relationships. Actions. Described in problems.
Drop mic.

And how come I am able to teach text structure in reading, and I was neglecting text structure in math?
Huge light bulb moment teacher friends.

So let's go back to the gradual release model.
These are  some of the anchor charts that I  have used  this year to introduce different types of word problems in whole group lessons during our math workshop time.

I color code to show my students the relationships in number bonds, bar models, number sentences, and actual sentences. Labeling everything, plays a VERY important part in conceptual understanding.  I make sure to teach my students that the number sentence comes with  understanding. We must understand before we actually figure out a "plus" or a "minus."

Bar Models

So what are the type of  word problems and what kind of strategies can we teach our students?
I really believe that there is not right  or wrong way. Our students come to us already with a great deal of experiences.
Or not.
 I do believe, however, that there are ways that make my students' understanding deeper, like bar models or number bonds.

I made this set of posters for my classroom, but more importantly for my students. These posters give us a visual, a point of reference, and a starting point to learn how to identify (and see) RELATIONSHIPS.

You can grab them for FREE by clicking HERE!! {There are 11 posters in 

So, why are word problems so hard for kids to solve?
We have to help them change the mindset of looking for the answer first. These are the set of steps that we follow in order to avoid looking for the answer  first:

1.Read the problem
2. Identify the who and the what (We label and color here)
3. Draw unit bars with the help of manipulatives (Connecting cubes win by a landslide)
4. Reread problem, double check for information, adjust the bars. (This is why connecting cubes are better)
5.  Decide on the question mark. (Label and color the question)
6. Work the number sentence out (see? this is towards the end)
7. Write a sentence to answer the question mark.

I really need to make an anchor chart with these steps and keep it up the whole year. These are the steps recommended by Singapore math experts. They are the bomb.

Let's go back to the gradual release.
I have already told you about the "I do."
I made these Color, label, cut, and paste mats to do during small groups during guided math. This is the "we do" part. It takes time and patience. The a-ha moment is priceless.

For the "you do it together" and " you do it alone",  I ask my student to apply their strategies learned from the "I do" and "we do" stages by using task cards.
Simple and effective way to check for understanding. Hello formative assessment.

So what's next?
Word problems are hard to understand. They make an important part of our classroom. As of recently, I have created a problem solving corner, where I hope that my students can see themselves as true problem solvers and mathematicians.

I hang posters with problem types that we have already practiced over and over.

There are connecting cubes, base ten blocks, coins, shapes, counters, and many other things in our problem solving corner. I hope to add more supplies based on observations and the suggestions of my students.

I continue to look for literature that supports problem solving in Math. Let me know if you have a fave!

Just in case you are interested in these activities, you may check them out from my TPT store.

You can learn more by clicking HERE!!

Thank you for reading teacher friends, I hope that you found this post useful.
Until next time!