Home Studio: Streaming foundational math lessons for K-3


Starting today, Thursday, March 19, I will livestream some foundational math lessons and activities. I’ll live stream Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday via YouTube and I really hope it works! I will do a back-up recording just in case and post it if the live stream doesn’t work.

9:00 for Kindergarteners and First Graders

10:00 for Second and Third Graders 

The intent is to do some math together with the foundational skills of math and to give Caregivers some tips on how to bring joy and wonder into math at home. I’m possibly doing some groundbreaking on YouTube! Please do not expect perfection–I am learning too!

I will continue offering lessons because, as I see it, it’s good practice for me, I might be able to help a bunch of kids and caregivers out there figure out how to do the math thing together. 

Caregivers, you have an amazing opportunity here: to get to know your child’s math mind! This is something that I get to do every day as a math interventionist. I get to celebrate the little milestones and the huge cognitive shifts with your child. Every day I go to work thinking of your child and what settings and activities I can do with them to help them move along in their thinking.

What I’m going to help you do is figure out where your child is in their range of numbers for counting forward, counting backward, and numeral identification. I’m going to introduce you to some activities that can be adapted to any number. We are going to start slow and build on what we know.

We are going to explore the Structure of Numbers. What that means is that we are going to notice and wonder about numbers and what chunks we see inside them. How can we use what we know to help us build new knowledge?

I am going to model questioning. I will offer advice and give resources when I can, but I certainly don’t want to overwhelm people!

For the Kindergarten sessions, it is recommended that the caregiver is sitting side-by-side with the child to help with the materials-making and number writing. When we are studying numbers, it’s important that the student is working with a good model, so the adult should write the numerals when the student is too young to produce correct numeral formation independently. Here is a great video for Numeral Writing practice–there are lots out there–I like the Numeral Song. It helps some kids to “talk to the hand” and say the words or sing the song to what they need to remember about number formation (same goes for letter formation).

The Numeral Song

Students should be encouraged to do as much as they can independently. We can increase independence by encouraging self-checking and I will give ideas on how to make that happen.

Why am I doing this?

I’m a parent of two kids myself, a 9 ½  and 12 year old (he’ll be 13 on May 26!). I got the idea from watching what my kids watch on YouTube. Sometimes my daughter watches another girl playing with dolls to get ideas. I thought, “I think I can do better than that!” I’ve actually been mulling this idea over in my head for quite sometime and this situation is speeding up the process. I chose YouTube as a platform because I think it engages a lot of kids who now have a lot of time at home. 

It’s difficult navigating my kids’ schooling with my professional goals and need to connect with students, along with being together 24/7. We’ve got a schedule going and that really helps. Since we’re home together, we’re working on taking care of common spaces together. We’re working on being patient with each other, giving each other space, and developing our relationships.

For years, my daughter wouldn’t talk to me about her math thinking, but she’s finally let me in! She still shuts me down when she’s had enough, but we get to have some cool conversations about her math thinking. Hopefully you’ll get to witness some of that. 

One thing that helps us and our relationship around math is that I am truly interested in understanding her thinking of the mathematics. Math is about reasoning and making sense. If it doesn’t make sense, then either you’ve got to work to have it make sense for you or maybe you need to step back and work with smaller numbers, or take a break altogether. 

Who am I?

I’m just a teacher, doing my thing. As you see on the internet during these times, it is inundated with cries from teachers trying to figure out how to Home School, how to create “new normals” for this time. Do I have all of the answers? No. Is the way I do it the only way? No. Heck, there are teachers out there way more talented and way more knowledgeable than I am, but I can only “do” me and possibly serve as an inspiration for others.

I’m a math teacher, a math interventionist specifically. That means that I work with kids to help them gain knowledge and skills to be an independent thinker in their grade level math class. There’s a lot involved, but perhaps most important is to have a Growth Mindset, give yourself time to think, and revise your thinking as you go. 

There’s more about me on my website www.whosevoiceinmathclass.com . I started this Website about a year ago and haven’t added much because I haven’t had time. Now I do have the time to commit to it! I have to say that jumping in with both feet is risky, but I’m hopeful that I will learn a lot. I am going to be putting myself out there and feel vulnerable, yet feel all of the support of my family and friends around me. 

I will need feedback about how the sessions are going and how I can improve them. It will definitely be low-tech at first!

We already do more with less.

The above article is awesome and worth the read. Before reading it, just with seeing the title, I felt the need to write my thoughts, so here we go…

We already to more with less.

We have to scrounge garage sales for furniture, used books, games, art supplies, spending our own money to get what we need for our classrooms.

Or we buy piece meal the tables we want, while offices in Washington are decked out with ergonomic office furniture, up-to-date computers and presentation equipment and no personal money spent. If we’re lucky, we get the cast-offs from local colleges when they upgrade their computers or lounge spaces.

We also are required to get Professional Development Points, which require hours of our own time to stay up-to-date in current research and education. Who in Washington is expected to attend graduate level classes for their entire career?

I don’t mind, because this is all important. I do it because I’m passionate about it, not because I’m told I have to.

But don’t treat me like I don’t matter and that my emotional well-being shouldn’t be protected. We need more resources today because more children are coming to our schools needing emotional and behavioral support, not just educational. We work every day to make 6 hours in the lives of our students be the best they can be, but if you give us too many students they won’t get the education they deserve because it’s too much to manage.

Do you have any idea how many hours we spend evaluating student work? This is a conservative example, thinking about a writing assessment where the student had to produce a piece of writing: 20 students x 10 minutes per student= 200 minutes= about 3 /12 hours. In elementary school, we are lucky if we have a 40 minute prep period every day. You do the math. Do we have enough time in the school day to do what’s required?

For elementary teachers, think about each subject we teach: reading, writing, math, spelling, social studies, science. In our district, we have a curriculum coordinator who makes sure that we are all doing these kinds of assessments. We are developing a Standards Based report card, which will add to our work load.

Then think about caregiver communication. We spend a lot of time communicating with caregivers and having caregivers reach out to us. This is crucial to our work to develop a team for each student, so many of us do it on our own time because we barely have time to breathe during the day.

We also communicate with many consultants, some of whom tell us we need to do more assessments. When? Teachers are already being asked to do more and more and more and more.

We spend hours of our personal time thinking about our students and how we can improve our teaching to make their learning better. We talk to each other, brainstorming ways to help a particular child “do school” or access the math or improve a lesson.

I’m sick and tired of the image of teachers out there being people who don’t care or the pedophile types. Appreciate the positive intentions of every single teacher out there, except the exceptions who make the news.

Teachers like me are the majority. We are dedicated, caring, intelligent, collaborative, remarkable people. Treat us that way. We deserve it.

A Spatial Pattern Exploration Idea

…With lots of other ideas intertwined!

I love using counters with my math intervention students and I use them in a variety of ways. I have a bunch of different kinds of counters, organized in different ways and for different purposes in my classroom.

One day, I gave each of my three first graders a condiment cup with 7 round magnet counters in each. For this activity, I had all of the counters the same color and I pre-counted the collection. I said, “Go ahead and figure out how many counters you have.”

They each dumped their counters on the table. Each child approached the task differently. One of them counted them by ones very quickly and he lost track and started over, looking nervously at the other two kids as they were counting their collections. One of them grouped them in twos and stress-counted by ones, “One, two, three, four, five, six, seven.” The third child meticulously moved one counter to the other side of her counting surface, carefully saying one number word at a time.

Bullet Journal entry…helps me remember my seed ideas.

I asked the kids to verbalize how they counted their collections and then I asked them if there is a way that they could arrange them that kind of looks like dice or a domino so that we can all look at their collection and not have to count by ones to figure out the amount (see the illustration).

I love having kids do this because they’re making sense of the number and they are partitioning it in a spatial pattern that make sense to them. Then through the students talking about what they’re noticing in their own and in each other’s designs, they’re hopefully building onto their understanding of “seven”.

Child 1 said, “I made a 5 and a 2. It’s 7.”

Child 2 said, “I made a 6 and a 1. Well, I counted by 2s and I don’t have enough for another 2, so it’s 7.”

Child 3 said, “I made a 3 and a 4. Yup, it’s 7.”

So then I had this idea to have them flip their counters over because on this day, I used magnet counters that were colored on top and black on the other side. So they flipped their counters carefully (I should have started with them flipped to the magnet-side-up or used ones that are a magnet on both sides). I grabbed a magnetic board and I made a sound effect “thwaaaaannnnggg” and smacked a magnetic sheet over part of their design and with a certain amount of finesse, I was able to not reveal how many I took.

Well, the student I started with said, “HEY!”

I quickly realized that he was mad that I took some of his magnets. I didn’t expect him to get angry, but I had to go with it and think fast and I switched on my charm as I smiled really big and said, “How many did I take away?” He took a deep breath when he realized that this would be fun (phew!) and his shoulders dropped as he relaxed and his fingers came out.

He said, “Well, I had 5…” As he talked, he made 5 and 2 more on his fingers “…and I see 5 there. YOU TOOK TWO!”

“Yes!” I gave him his magnets back (and he proceeded to rearrange his 7 into a different pattern and talk about what he was noticing) as I quickly did the same with the other two children’s designs. I made sure I gave all three kids equal amounts of turns, rotating my way around the table. It’s important to the kids that things are fair.

We kept going on this activity for a few minutes and math talk was amazing. The kids were noticing the reciprocity of the facts like 3 + 4 = 4 + 3. They were using their fingers to represent. They sometimes counted on to figure out the missing addend. We talked about the different strategies they used, prompted by my observations and questioning.

My goal was to get them to talk about what they were noticing and to get them to build and own some understanding of “seven”. My hope is that they’ll start to do this kind of thinking and talking organically in their classroom or at home or even just in our group at first.

I’m trying really hard to make sure it’s the kids who do the noticing and the verbalizing as much as possible. It is so hard for me not to say what I notice because I’m so excited to watch the kids and how they arrange their chips…it fascinates me to watch kids approach the same exact amount of a manipulative in different ways. I’m constantly making connections in my mind and it’s my goal for the students that they make connections as they’re working every day in my intervention groups.

For the wrap-up, I asked, “What did you learn or notice about seven today?” I recorded their ideas on a group poster so that we could add to our knowledge of seven as we progress. I jotted their words and ideas as best I could into my notes, along with my observations within the lesson so I can use this knowledge to inform future lessons.

For this activity, we worked inside of finger range because that’s what my students needed that day. This activity works well with larger numbers, up to 20 I’d say. After 20, you might want to use a different manipulative like strips of ten and singles.

After I completed the activity, I jotted it in my bullet journal. I think it might make a good partner game? Maybe? It kind of reminded me of Splat! by Steve Wyborney…kind of like a build-your-own-splat? If you don’t know about Splat! you should check it out. 🙂

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

On another day, if I want to work on the verbal counting sequence and work on 1:1, I might have them get 16 or so counters, paying close attention to their verbal count and watching how they approach a 1:1 counting activity, but I suppose this would be another blog post!

How do you think about 8+8?

I was at my friend’s house the other day describing this cool thing I saw a student do with 8+8, but before I went into my description, I asked her soon-to-be-third-grade son “how do you think about 8+8?”

He looked up toward to the ceiling and said, “8 and 8 is…8..12..16!”

I said, “How did you get that?”

He said, “I just knew it.”

I said, “I heard you whispering ‘8..12..16’…what were you doing there?”

“Oh! I thought about how 8 is two fours, so if I have 8 and add a four I get 12 and then add another 4, it’s 16!”

I turned to my friend and said, “See, right there, he used his understanding of the structure of numbers to figure out 8 and 8 without counting on by ones. That’s what we want our students to do once they understand that they can count on as a strategy.”

Her son wasn’t thinking about this image below when he was solving, rather, he was using groups of four and probably adding through ten. He didn’t verbalize adding through ten which would be “8 and 2 more is 10, I have 6 more from the 8 and 6+10=16” so I don’t know if he did it.

A Number Rack or Rekenrek https://apps.mathlearningcenter.org/number-rack/

Once kids realize that they don’t have to count from one anymore when adding two collections, we want them to start to use their knowledge of the structure of numbers so they can do math mentally without counting by ones like “I saw 8 and 8 more is: 8–9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16” while tracking the 8 on their fingers. They know when to stop because they see a 5 and a 3 on their hands and they know that 5 and 3 are 8, so they are using some structuring to track their count.

If we flash just the left side of the rekenrek to second graders and have them talk about what they saw, we might hear, “I saw 5 reds on the top and 5 reds on the bottom, that’s 10. I saw 3 whites and 3 whites, that’s 6. So 10 +6=16.” I’d want them to also make sure to say that they saw 8 on the top and 8 on the bottom, so 8 and 8 is 16. And that’s the cool thing that I saw a student do with 8+8!

{Learning to Think Mathematically with the Rekenrek is an excellent resource to guide you if you’ve never used a rekenrek, which is a math tool that should be used with the guidelines. Using a the Rekenrek as a Visual Model for Strategic Reasoning in Mathematics is one of my favorite resources also. This Blog has links to even more guides and has video examples.}

We don’t want to start using the Rekenrek too early! We should be working on making sure that our students know all finger patterns on their fingers, can recognize regular dot patterns, and know all dot dice combinations. More to come in more blog posts. 🙂

Please feel free to leave a comment!

The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining me!

I painted this picture (of a picture I found online) a few years ago. It speaks to me because it reminds me of when I found my voice as an educator. I wanted to shout from the rooftops how excited I was about what I was thinking about my students or about my teaching. This is the opposite of how I’d spent my 22 years of classroom teaching, which was mostly behind closed doors, not realizing that what I was yearning for was for someone to talk to about my ideas as an educator. I found my thought-partners right here in my own district and at Mt. Holyoke College, through many years of coursework. All I have to do is start a conversation…and that’s what I’m doing here to start a conversation with a more global community of learners.

This blog is a space for educators to talk about what we notice our students doing in math class. What do we hear them saying? What do we see them doing? They’re showing us what they know, we just have to figure that out. It’s called “Whose Voice in Math Class?” because it’s here where we can have a platform to think about that question together. Thoughtful and respectful questions and comments are always welcomed!

The website will eventually contain activities and resources for teachers and parents. My primary audience is teachers, but I think this blog will be helpful for parents as well.