Category Archives: PK-1st Grade

Teaching the Standard Algorithms

[Feature photo above by Samuel Mann, Analytical Engine photo below by Roͬͬ͠͠͡͠͠͠͠͠͠͠͠sͬͬ͠͠͠͠͠͠͠͠͠aͬͬ͠͠͠͠͠͠͠ Menkman, both (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr.]

Babbage's Analytical Engine

An algorithm is a set of steps to follow that produce a certain result. Follow the rules carefully, and you will automatically get the correct answer. No thinking required — even a machine can do it.

This photo shows one section of the first true computer, Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine. Using a clever arrangement of gears, levers, and switches, the machine could crank out the answer to almost any arithmetic problem. Rather, it would have been able to do so, if Babbage had ever finished building the monster.

One of the biggest arguments surrounding the Common Core State Standards in math is when and how to teach the standard algorithms. But this argument is not new. It goes back at least to the late 19th century.

Here is a passage from a book that helped shape my teaching style, way back when I began homeschooling in the 1980s…

Ruth Beechick on Teaching Abstract Notation

Understanding this item is the key to choosing your strategy for the early years of arithmetic teaching. The question is: Should you teach abstract notation as early as the child can learn it, or should you use the time, instead, to teach in greater depth in the mental image mode?

Abstract notation includes writing out a column of numbers to add, and writing one number under another before subtracting it. The digits and signs used are symbols. The position of the numbers is an arbitrary decision of society. They are conventions that adult, abstract thinkers use as a kind of shorthand to speed up our thinking.

When we teach these to children, we must realize that we simply are introducing them to our abstract tools. We are not suddenly turning children into abstract thinkers. And the danger of starting too early and pushing this kind of work is that we will spend an inordinate amount of time with it. We will be teaching the importance of making straight columns, writing numbers in certain places, and other trivial matters. By calling them trivial, we don’t mean that they are unnecessary. But they are small matters compared to real arithmetic thinking.

If you stay with meaningful mental arithmetic longer, you will find that your child, if she is average, can do problems much more advanced than the level listed for her grade. You will find that she likes arithmetic more. And when she does get to abstractions, she will understand them better. She will not need two or three years of work in primary grades to learn how to write out something like a subtraction problem with two-digit numbers. She can learn that in a few moments of time, if you just wait.

— Ruth Beechick
An Easy Start in Arithmetic (Grades K-3)
(emphasis mine)


Tabletop Academy PressGet monthly math tips and activity ideas, and be the first to hear about new books, revisions, and sales or other promotions. Sign up for my Tabletop Academy Press Updates email list.


December Advent Math from Nrich

[Feature photo (above) by Austin Kirk via Flickr (CC BY 2.0).]

Click on the pictures below to explore a mathy Advent Calendar with a new game, activity, or challenge puzzle for each day during the run-up to Christmas. Enjoy!

Advent Calendar 2014 – Primary

adventprimary

Advent Calendar 2014 – Secondary

adventsecondary


Tabletop Academy PressGet monthly math tips and activity ideas, and be the first to hear about new books, revisions, and sales or other promotions. Sign up for my Tabletop Academy Press Updates email list.


Roadmap to Mathematics: 1st Grade

[Feature photo (above) by woodleywonderworks. (CC BY 2.0 via Flickr)]

roadmap1

A frequently-asked question on homeschooling forums is, “Are my children working at grade level? What do they need to know?”

The Council of the Great City Schools has published a handy 6-page pdf summary of first grade math concepts, with suggestions for how parents can support their children’s learning:

Whether you are a radical unschooler or passionately devoted to your textbook — or, like me, somewhere in between — you can help your children toward these grade-level goals by encouraging them to view mathematics as mental play. Don’t think of the standards as a “to do” list, but as your guide to an adventure of exploration. The key to learning math is to see it the mathematician’s way, as a game of playing with ideas.

The following are excerpts from the roadmap document, along with links to related posts from the past eight years of playing with math on this blog…

Continue reading Roadmap to Mathematics: 1st Grade

Roadmap to Mathematics: Kindergarten

[Feature photo (above) by MIKI Yoshihito. (CC BY 2.0 via Flickr)]

RoadmapK

A frequently-asked question on homeschooling forums is, “Are my children working at grade level? What do they need to know?”

The Council of the Great City Schools has published a handy 6-page pdf summary of kindergarten math concepts, with suggestions for how parents can support their children’s learning:

Whether you are a radical unschooler or passionately devoted to your textbook — or, like me, somewhere in between — you can help your children toward these grade-level goals by encouraging them to view mathematics as mental play. Don’t think of the standards as a “to do” list, but as your guide to an adventure of exploration. The key to learning math is to see it the mathematician’s way, as a game of playing with ideas.

The following are excerpts from the roadmap document, along with links to related posts from the past eight years of playing with math on this blog…

Continue reading Roadmap to Mathematics: Kindergarten

Horseshoes: A Place Value Game

[Feature photo above by Johnmack161 via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 2.5).]

I first saw place value games on the old PBS Square One TV show (video below). Many teachers have posted versions of the game online, but Snugglenumber by Anna Weltman is by far the cutest variation. Anna kindly gave me permission to use the game in my upcoming Math You Can Play book series, and I added the following variation:

Horseshoes

snugglenumber

Math Concepts: place value, strategic thinking.
Players: two or more.
Equipment: one deck of playing cards, or a double deck for more than three players.

Separate out the cards numbered ace (one) through nine, plus cards to represent the digit zero. We use the queens (Q is round enough for pretend), but you could also use the tens and just count them as zero.

Shuffle well and deal eleven cards to each player. Arrange your cards in the snugglenumber pattern shown here, one card per blank line, to form numbers that come as close to each target number as you can get it.

Score according to horseshoes rules:

  • Three points for each ringer, or exact hit on the target.
  • One point for each number that is six or less away from the target.
  • If none of the players land in the scoring range for a target number, then score one point for the number closest to that target.

For a quick game, whoever scores the most points wins. Or follow tradition and play additional rounds until one player gets 21 points (40 for championship games) — and you have to win by at least two points over your closest opponent’s score.

But Who’s Counting?


Tabletop Academy PressGet monthly math tips and activity ideas, and be the first to hear about new books, revisions, and sales or other promotions. Sign up for my Tabletop Academy Press Updates email list.


Natural Math Multiplication Course

NaturalMathMultiplication

This April, the creative people at Moebius Noodles are inviting parents, teachers, playgroup hosts, and math circle leaders to join an open online course about multiplication. My preschool-2nd grade homeschool math group is eager to start!

Each week there will be five activities to help kids learn multiplication by exploring patterns and structure, with adaptations for ages 2-12.

The course starts April 6 and runs for four weeks.

Preliminary Syllabus

Week 1: Introduction.
What is multiplication? Hidden dangers and precursors of math difficulties. From open play to patterns: make your own math. 60 ways to stay creative in math. Our mathematical worries and dreams.

Week 2: Inspired by calculus.
Tree fractals. Substitution fractals. Multiplication towers. Doubling and halving games. Zoom and powers of the Universe.

Week 3: Inspired by algebra.
Factorization diagrams. Mirror books and snowflakes. Combination and chimeras. Spirolaterals and Waldorf stars: drafting by the numbers. MathLexicon.

Week 4: Times tables.
Coloring the monster table. Scavenger hunt: multiplication models and intrinsic facts. Cuisenaire, Montessori, and other arrays. The hidden and exotic patterns. Healthy memorizing.

Sounds like lots of fun!


Tabletop Academy PressGet monthly math tips and activity ideas, and be the first to hear about new books, revisions, and sales or other promotions. Sign up for my Tabletop Academy Press Updates email list.


Quotable: Focus on Being Silent

Children Reading Pratham Books and Akshara[Photo by Pratham Books via flickr (CC BY 2.0).]

I discovered this gem in my blog reading today. One of the secrets of great teaching:

Audrey seemed, for once, at a loss for words. She was thinking about the question.

I try to stay focused on being silent after I ask young children questions, even semi-serious accidental ones. Unlike most adults, they actually take time to think about their answers and that often means waiting for a response, at least if you want an honest answer.

If you’re only looking for the “right” answer, it’s fairly easy to gently badger a child into it, but I’m not interested in doing that.

Thomas Hobson
Thank You For Teaching Me

Learn Math by Asking Questions

The best way for children to build mathematical fluency is through conversation. For more ideas on discussion-based math, check out these posts:

And be sure to follow Christopher Danielson’s Talking Math with Your Kids blog!


Get all our new math tips and games:  Subscribe in a reader, or get updates by Email.