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Saturday, June 20, 2015

Fourth Day of Math & Beyond - Grade 4

In this era of high-stakes testing, I know that my students will also need to write to explain. How can a teacher find time for all of this? I've decided to layer my instruction.

On days that my students aren't playing Math Facts Baseball, I give them a little bell work that requires explaining. It's quick, easy, and effective!

The examples below require my students to discuss place value (4.NBT.1). This really makes them think! As the beginning weeks of school tick by, the Writing to Explain problem cards will also ask them to explain their reasoning for writing numbers in standard form, words, and expanded form; comparing two numbers; and rounding to the nearest ten and hundred.

These short activities require metacognition. As students think about their own reasoning, deeper understanding is achieved. I first used this strategy last year, and it really made a difference!


Friday, June 19, 2015

Third Day of Math - Grade 4

It's time to get down to business. the first half of the day will be dedicated to Math Facts Baseball. It's been a hit in my class for years! Each student takes four three-minute timed tests: addition, subtractions, multiplication, and division. Then they go up to bat. For each test that's 100% correct, they get a base. One test correct is a single; two, a double; three, a triple, and four, a home run. 

timed tests
If you want to learn more about this fun, motivational game,

After Math Facts Baseball, we begin our first math unit: Place Value. By this time, I've figured out which students in my class need to stay with basic level mathematics and which are ready for a challenge. Two sets of parallel activities and worksheets - - - one set reaching to 999,999 and the other to 999,999,999 - - - allow me to differentiate appropriately.

(Use a little Beyonce to teach this lesson.

The first topic is reading large numbers, which is easy if you break it down into periods.

Several years ago, I shared detailed ideas for teaching place value in my blog. If you'd like to read more, simply click on a topic:
Place value is the key to our number system and an essential building block for working with numbers in base ten. Once we get this down, the rest of the year is a snap! ;- )


P.S. Would you like a free PowerPoint presentation that explains how I start the year in mathematics? Click here!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Second Day of Math - Grade 4

On Day #1, I assessed my students' skills with multi-digit whole numbers with some fun task cards. Now it's time to measure their fluency with multiplication facts and start instruction.

Thank goodness for educational apps! Fact Navigator from makes timed tests easy. Simply click on Pre-Test Multiplication and up pops a 36-problem online test. When finished, the student hits FINISHED, and the test is automatically scored with the time displayed at the top. You can have kids print their tests, or, like I do, record their scores using a clipboard.

With Fact Navigator, assessing students' multiplication facts takes only a few minutes. Now it's time to move on to a little instruction . . . built into a beginning-of-year ice breaker.

What's more special to a kid than his birthday? First, I tell the class that we're going to make a human graph. We'll line up along a wall outside the building (so that a passing airplane could see our graph). The only rule is NO TALKING. What? No talking? How will we get this done? After a few minutes of confusion, someone figures out that they can hold up fingers to express the month of their birth. They move around, and pretty soon, a human graph emerges.

We move quickly back into the classroom, and each student places a cupcake on a class pictograph, like this:

For Birthday Graphing kit, click here.

We discuss different types of graphs, focusing on pictographs and bar graphs (that compare) and line graphs (that show change over time). We talk about titles, labels, scales, and keys/legends. I introduce the x- and y-axes, which will be important later in the year.

Finally, each student is asked to create a horizontal bar graph using the data from our vertical picture graph. As they finish, I hang these on the wall as well. The class is getting that lived-in look, and kids feel the ownership with their birthdays and bar graphs displayed proudly.

With two days down, my students have moved around the room to complete a set of task cards, played on the computer, created a human graph together, assembled a pictograph on the wall, and produced a bar graph. To them, math class has been fun and engaging. I'm feeling the math love as well, but in a different way. I now have baseline data for writing numbers in standard form, words and expanded form, rounding, comparing, adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing, as well as multiplication facts fluency. Whew! Additionally, I've reviewed graphs and taught one new concept: the x- and y-axes (as well as z, which I threw in for fun).

I love the the beginning of a new year in math! To share my plans with you, I've created Beginning of the Year Math Lesson Plans, a free PowerPoint presentation.


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

First Day of Math - Grade 4

At the beginning of the school year, it's important to administer a baseline assessment. But testing on the first day of school? No way! To see how my students fare in Numbers and Operations in Base Ten (writing, comparing and rounding multi-digit whole numbers, as well as adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing), I turned my pretest into a set of monster-themed task cards.

Voila! My students are able to move around their new classroom with some active learning, and I get a clear assessment of the skills they can and cannot do.

It's a win-win situation! Formative assessment has never been so much fun!

What are you doing on the first day of school? Why not try these new task cards and help your students tame the math monster! Three parallel sets of task cards provide practice and assessment throughout the year.


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Beginning of the Year Math Instruction - Grade 4

The first few days of math instruction are critical to student success. Which activities provide the best building blocks for fourth graders?

It's taken me a while to get it right. Now it's time to share with you!

First, let's take a look at the major concepts and skills learned by fourth graders. The statements listed below come from the Common Core State Standards, which represent topics in a typical fourth grade instructional plan.

Operations & Algebraic Thinking
  • Use the four operations with whole numbers to solve problems.
  • Gain familiarity with factors and multiples.
  • Generate and analyze patterns.
Number & Operations in Base Ten
  • Generalize place value understanding for multi-digit whole numbers.
  • Use place value understanding and properties of operations to perform multi-digit arithmetic.
Number & Operations - Fractions
  • Extend understanding of fraction equivalence and ordering.
  • Build fractions from unit fractions.
  • Understand decimal notation for fractions, and compare decimal fractions.
Measurement & Data
  • Solve problems involving measurement and conversion of measurements.
  • Represent and interpret data.
  • Understand concepts of angle and measure angles.
  • Draw and identify lines and angles, and classify shapes by properties or their lines and angles.
Which of these standards represent the building blocks of fourth grade mathematics? Yes, mastery of Number & Operations in Base Ten is prerequisite to nearly all other fourth grade concepts. In my experience, fourth graders need two things for a successful start in math: understanding of place value and fluency in addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division facts. This is where I begin.

I've created a short PowerPoint presentation that explains how I use products from my Teachers pay Teachers store and some free apps to successfully begin instruction in my fourth grade math class. Beginning of the Year Math - Grade 4 is now available for free! Over the next few days, I'll discuss the first days in my math class in this blog as well.