Math Workshop

Themes & Holidays

My Classroom

Making Math FUN!

It is true... there is a special place in my heart for teaching math. Although many see math as black and white, I enjoy finding those areas of gray. :) Like why is 0 the most important number? And why is -8 smaller than 0? Any why can the solution to a problem be infinity? And WHAT is infinity? Get the picture? :) What makes teaching math successful in my classroom is sharing my intrigue for math with my students. I'm not afraid to bring up negative numbers or the idea of infinity with 6 and 7 years olds because it exposes them to how much there is to learn and how exciting it feels to learn something new. This type of math conversation, one that can be out of their comfort zone, sparks meaningful discussions and questioning and shows the true progression of skills/concepts in math. Then I tell my students they are learning "high school" math which not only cues their listening ears, but gives them bragging rights to the other first grade teachers! HA! ;)

As you may know, I am a HUGE fan of the math workshop model. I think the key to making math fun is to keep it student centered and interactive. With that being said, we need to have the students doing more of the "doing" and the "talking." The workshop model supports that type of environment. Each day we begin math by piggy backing off of the math we do in calendar, which I find works magic for a smooth transition. We have ourselves in a "math mind" and ready to use our "math mouth." I lead our whole group mini-lesson for about 15 minutes, introducing the new vocabulary and skill. Keeping it short and simple makes it really clear of our kiddos what we will be learning by the end of the lesson. Then we branch out into 3 groups (which are made at the start of the unit based on pre-assessment scores). 

My enrichment students work independently on an enrichment activity and then partner/group up to do a think-pair-share amongst themselves. I check in with them during this at the end of the workshop and come prepared with questions to stretch their thinking. This usually leads us to a mini-lesson that stretches the skill to their level. I meet with my low group first each day. I do a reteach of the lesson I teach using all manipulatives as support. Then I get them started on an worksheet/activity that we do together as a small group. Even though we do it "together," I ask questions individually to gage and check for individual understanding. If students are grasping it quickly, I send them to work in the middle group. This allows me to give as much attention as possible to the kiddos who need it. After we are done meeting as a group, I allow them to choose a math tub of their choice to complete. Then I go check in with my middle group. My middle group works with a partner on an assigned activity in my tubs. This can include anything from a worksheet, a math journal writing page, one of the many fabulous centers from TpT or my personal favorite... a math game!  

Math games are a KEY component to engaging students in math. Math is not just a worksheet people! I am excited to share with you some of my personal favorites that are easy and free (assuming you have some of the classic materials already laying around :))!! 

My personal favorite games to practice math facts are Jenga and fast fact stacking. I printed addition facts on Avery labels and placed them in the inside of the pieces so that when stacking them, the kiddos don't know the problem until they pull the piece out. :) I also placed the remaining labels on plastic cups. These can be used for fast fact stacking. Fast fact stacking is when students have a certain number of cups (10ish to start and increase over the year) and they have to see home many facts they can get right in 2 minutes (timer from the Dollar Tree). Students will have a teammate to work with. They start with the cups in a stack. One by one they pull a cup from the top of the stack, look at the problem and say the answer. The teammate is responsible for checking their answer. If they get it wrong, they can't stack that cup in their tower. They must discard it. Then the partner switch turns. 

Another great skill that you can use just about any manipulative you have is a subitizing center. It may be more of a Kindergarten skill/standard but I believe it is such an important fundational skill that helps develop a stronger conceptual understanding of addition, place value and much more! 

You can pick up your own copy of the addition facts to be printed on Avery labels 5160 here.

Another great fact practice center is Dunk-it! Dominoes. Place cups with numbers to act as sums around the center. Students can choose dominoes from a pile, add the two addends and place it in a cup with it's corresponding sum. This can also be used from doubles. Students can also use dominoes to add the addends and double it! 
Anyone else a big fan of war?! I LOVED playing it as a kid and now it is so fun seeing a classic stay alive in my classroom. This game can be used to compare numbers. It can also be easily differentiated by having students who are ready take two cards and add it for the sum. It can also be used to practice doubles! 
 Another thing to consider is making a math game accountable. I think it's also important to remember the benefit of including a recording sheet with some math games. Below are some games that I use in my classroom all year that include recording sheets from my Math Games and Centers Bundle on TpT. I print them and place them in sheet protectors. My students and I love how they are interactive and engaging! They guide students towards using manipulatives. I usually leave a few of these out in math tubs at a time and allow students to choose.  The students even ask to bring them out a recess!! ;)

As I mentioned before, the key to making math fun is to put the learning in the hands of our students.  As important as it is to give them independence, I feel there is value in coming back as a whole group and "reflecting" on their learning for that day. After our workshop, we come back to the carpet for about 4-5 minutes to share out anything "new" they learned, any questions they had, and "ah ha! moments." I encourage them to share out using accountable talk stems, which encourages them to use their classmates names and math vocabulary. Then we give ourselves a 5 star rating for if they were able to reach our learning target for the day. This is usually my favorite part because they get so excited knowing they were responsible for their learning that day.  :) 


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  2. Simply AMAZING!! Your work is an absolute inspiration to me and others!!
    Thank you for sharing :)