New Blog Series: Extraordinary Math Hacks

Sharpen your pencils, pull out your 10-sided dice and base-10 blocks, and get ready for some math lesson hacks that you can use right away! I’m going to show you some Extra-ordinary Math Hacks that take my math time from *yawn* to "da-Bomb!"

Why are these math hacks extra-ordinary? Well, some of my ideas are going to have you saying "That's so simple and ordinary. Why didn't I think of that?" I’m always making a little something “extra” to supplement my math instruction. Maybe they aren't that ordinary, because if it were already out there and easy to find, I wouldn’t be making the activity or worksheet myself. The resources and ideas I share for math hacks will add a little something extra (or better) to your typical, "everyday" approach to 4th and 5th grade math.

Today's Math Hack is focused on modeling place value and writing numbers in different forms.

These materials would also work for 3rd grade!

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I'm lucky enough to be teaching a block of 4th and 5th grade math this year. It’s been amazing to get to spend more time teaching one of my most passionate subjects, but it sure does mean that I spend a lot of my time thinking about math. Last year, I taught math without a textbook and with limited resources. This year, we adopted Math Expressions. Having had previous experience with Math Expressions in my former district, I was really excited to get my hands back on the teacher manuals, Homework and Remembering books, and the student workbooks. While I am NOT a textbooky teacher, I love having it as a guide to help me pace my lessons and to see different approaches to teaching math concepts and skills (especially since I’m teaching two grade levels).

Even with access to a high-quality textbook this year, I still constantly find myself coming up with ways to get the kids up and moving instead of just completing a worksheet. Just about every morning before math class, I create a new thinking sheet to go along with the manipulatives we will use or to give students a way to learn a new skill through a game. I want my students working HANDS-ON as much as possible and I'm always sure to use a recording sheet to keep them accountable and to allow me to follow their thinking as I'm rotating around the room.

I find myself "hacking" math lessons with games and manipulatives so often that I thought sharing some of my ideas and hacks with you would make a great blog series. I hope that some of my ideas and resources will be beneficial to you as you teach these concepts. You might even find ways to apply my ideas to create your own math hacks!

Math Hack: Create your own task cards in minutes! 

Earlier this year while teaching Place Value to my 4th graders, I came across these free "modeling place value" worksheets at Common Core Sheets and immediately thought of a way to hack these into a more engaging lesson. First, I printed three different versions of the sheets onto cardstock to make 30 cards. (Each worksheet is numbered 1-10, so I just wrote 11-20 on one sheet and 21-30 on the other). Printing a good set of math problems that's technically a worksheet onto cardstock and snipping the problems apart to create task cards is a math hack you can use any time to get your students out of their seats and "scooting" around the room!

Next, I moved on to figuring out how I could have students do more with the cards than simply write the number that's represented in the picture.

At this point in our place value unit, we were deeply focused on using different models to represent place value and writing numbers in different forms. So, I made a recording sheet that would have students engaging with the number on the task card in different ways. For each Place Value task card, students had to create the number with their Secret Code Cards (more info later), write the number in expanded form, write the number in standard form, and model the number in a different way than shown on the task card--the one we use when drawing whole numbers is a small square or a dot for the ones, a straight line or stick for tens, a larger square for hundreds, and a vertical rectangle for thousands. 

Math Expressions comes with a set of manipulatives called Secret Code Cards. These cards can be stacked to create a number and expanded to show the place value of each number and expanded form. Secret Code Cards provided us with yet another way to physically represent a number. You can check out a teacher modeling the use of Secret Code Cards in the video below. Although it's a number in the 10's place, I think you will get the idea!

I'm sharing the recording sheet with you today and have included number cards in the ones, tens, hundreds, and thousands in case you want your students to model the numbers in expanded form. (I really think that's what took this activity over the edge and helped solidify their understanding of the meaning of place value). I've also included another version of the recording sheet in case you don't use the expanded number cards or "secret code cards."

I hope this is a math hack that you can use right away or put in your file for next year! I look forward to sharing more hacks with you! 

I'm linking up again with Rainbow City Learning and my Teacher Talk friends. Follow the links to find other great ideas!