Place Value Basics & Mult./Div.

Last year, I began using Jon Corippo‘s 8 p*ARTS . I saw great success with the repetition. As a result, I thought I’d like to do something along similar lines with Math. Now, I will admit, what I came up with isn’t nearly as fun. However, the repetition is there. This is for 5th grade and can easily be modified for other grades. Here’s what I came up with.

Place Value Basics

The plan:

  • Today’s Number – Have the student of the day decide on the day’s number anywhere from billion to thousandths place. However, the number must be at least to the tenths place.
  • 10 times greater – Take the original number and make it ten times greater.
  • 100 times greater – Take the original number and make it one hundred times greater.
  • 1,000 times greater – Yup, take the original number and make it one thousand times greater.
  • Add 10 times greater and 100 times greater – add the numbers.
  • Write a number that is GREATER – Have students change ONLY a digit that is AFTER the decimal.
  • 1/10 times less – Take the original number and make it ten times less.
  • 1/100 times less – Take the original number and make it one hundred times less.
  • Subtract 1/10 and 1/100 – subtract the numbers.
  • Write a number that is LESS – Have students change ONLY a digit that is AFTER the decimal.
  • Prime factors of the first 2 digits of the whole number – Only take the numbers in the ones and tens place and find the prime factors.

An example is given on the second slide. This should be done daily, with an assessment each week. The first week or two should be done as a group until the class understands what is expected. Once they ‘get the hang of it’ all that is needed is the number and the students can do this independently.

Update: Since the beginning of the year, I have added a new daily practice paper. Now that they can do the Mult/Div paper well, I switch back and forth. I will soon add a fractions practice paper to the mix.

Student Ownership

I love this time of year. That time of the year where you’ve hit that ‘sweet spot’ with your class: they know the routines, they can work independently, and they know they have a stake in the success of the class. On Friday, my students wanted to know if we were having a Valentine’s Day party. Personally, I don’t care. I told them that it was up to them. Of course, they decided to go for it.



Then, a group asked if they could decorate the room. Again, I said go for it that it was their thing. This group, made up of both genders, got together during Genius Hour to create decorations for the classroom. They also informed me that they were not done and would continue next Genius Hour. How cool are they?


We also have another issue to decide. We usually have parties near the end of the school day for obvious reasons. However, Valentine’s Day is also First Tee (Golf) day. We go in the afternoon. Our current dilemma is when to have it. On the 14th at lunch? On the 13th? Wait until 17th (Genius Hour)?  This was not a popular option. I’m letting them decide. Majority rules.

I just love days like this.

Tweet The Author

I recently wrote for the CUE Blog on how to own a premade curriculum. I spoke about taking it and tweaking it so that we, as teachers, feel the ownership instead of feeling like we have no say. Part of the way I take ownership in my math class is to use Andrew Stadel‘s Estimation 180 site. It’s a nice warm-up for the students and a great way to practice several of the 8 Mathematical Practices found in CCSS.

Most recently, we have been going through a series that has us estimate the value of coins in a container. It started with pennies, then progressed through until the day we estimated the value of dimes. We went through our normal routine – three minutes to discuss and find an estimate that is too low, too high, the actual estimate, and how they arrived at that estimate. Then, as normal, we viewed the video answer. Upon finding the answer, the RSP co-teacher got a discussion started. She disagreed with the answer. We left it at that so that the students could either agree or disagree. After they reviewed the previous two days’ answers and compared the answer to the dimes, the class determined that they too disagreed. Following the Mathematical Practices, they had to justify their reasoning, which they did. They reasoned that the pennies and nickels were mounding up to the point of almost spilling over, whereas the dimes didn’t quite reach the top of the container – same container.

Fortunately, with modern technology, we didn’t have to let the discussion die there. So, I got on my phone, hooked it up to the screen so the students could be active participants, jumped on Twitter, and sent Mr. Stadel a private message. This is what they wrote, well, told me to type:


After they got over the initial shock that one could actually do this, they got excited. Now, I have only been a participant in a few of Mr. Stadel’s sessions at conferences but was fairly certain that he would be open to what we had to say and would most likely respond. And he didn’t disappoint! The kids were VERY excited that he did respond. Okay, I was pretty excited too. This was such a real and relevant experience.


We then talked about how many more dimes we thought could fit. They determined that 1/2 roll more – 25 dimes – would be needed.

THIS is why we, as educators, need to be connected. THIS is why we continuously grow our PLN.

I would like to thank Mr. Stadel and Ms. Luke (RSP teacher) for making this all possible.

Winter Break Activities

This week I started my Winter Break. A glorious 3 weeks off from school. That also means that the students will most likely have 3 weeks off from practicing any of their skills, including reading. The no reading thing makes me sad. In an effort to combat the ‘Winter Break Slide’ (very similar to the Summer Slide) our principal requested that we give homework. As I am not a fan of homework, I designed a Winter Break Activities sheet.


Since the students only need to choose 3 activities, it gives them some ownership and flexibility. I also tried to make them a bit more interesting as well as non-tech friendly. However, I think my favorite part is the Kindness Calendar. The calendar is ‘homework’ that everyone can agree on.


One student noted that many items were ‘chores’. I told her it was my present to the parents!

Explain Your Answer

Shifts in Math

2000px-math-svgOne of the bigger shifts in math, aside from the building blocks in the CCSS Framework, is the ever dreaded ‘Explain your answer’. When this first came out, I wasn’t sure what they meant, the frameworks hadn’t been written yet. I had students explaining that they ‘added the ones then regrouped to get the answer.’ And while they were technically correct, there was a lot missing.

Better Understanding

Now, I have a better understanding of what is needed. The students need to break down each step and explain, using academic language, what their thought process is. I furthered my understanding when I went to a training on this. Honestly, it wasn’t the best training, but it got me thinking. I used some of the techniques to create a better lesson.

The Lesson

First, I created a template that the students were going to be using. Then, as a group, we walked through each part of the template and filled it in. There was  A LOT of guidance this first time. I’m hoping with practice, they will become more independent. Students worked in table groups to solve their table problem. Finally, they were to film their process of solving the problem. Using their ‘scripts’ students explained the process for division. Here’s an example:


Beast Mode Writing

We have been reading Bud, Not Buddy (fantastic book; read it if you haven’t already) and writing in our Response Journals. The kids have been doing an ‘okay’ job, and I want to challenge them. So yesterday, I asked a few students if I could display their work to the class and we would talk about it. That’s when one student shouted out, “Put mine up.” I asked if I would be impressed (I tell them to impress me as a challenge). He assured me that his writing was ‘Beast Mode’.

This is when I diverted from my lesson. I asked what would a ‘Beast Mode Writing’ look like. What attributes would it have? And so the class generated a list of what they thought ‘Beast Mode Writing’ would be (or to the rest of us, a quality writing piece).

And this is what they said:


For a while now, I have struggled with Rubrics. On one hand, I like that the students know what is expected. On the other, I feel that some look at the least amount of work needed to pass and do just that. However, with this, it gives the students the highest standard, nothing else. This way, they will shoot for the best and nothing less. I like it! And it was student generated to boot! And yes, that includes the – Appropriate font (size and style). Okay, I had some influence on the ‘NO comic sans’ earlier this year.


Remember that Mult/Div math paper I was sooooo excited about the other day? Well, it was an EPIC fail. Monday morning I introduced the paper to the class. They freaked out. Okay, that’s normal. It was new and unexpected. We walked through each part together…slowly. Oh. So. Slowly. They could almost handle the paper until…division! Yup, that killed ’em. And here is where the fail occurred. I was so excited, I didn’t worry about the 2 numbers they would be dividing. BIG mistake!

failCreative Commons 3 – CC BY-SA 3.0 NY –

I don’t remember what the numbers were, but it was a HOT mess! They were over it, I was over it, and they were super confused – it didn’t divide evenly and decimals were needed. For 5th graders who forgot how to divide in most cases, it was too much. So last night I reflected. I needed to choose the numbers (not let the kids) at least for now.

Today I went into class and discussed how that was an EPIC failure. I got jazz hands. Yes, we celebrate failure in my class. I told them what I thought and how I think it could be fixed. Then I asked what they thought. They agreed, the numbers needed to be smaller. So we went through the paper in a slightly different manner. We chose the whole number first. THEN, we went to the tool box and created equations. From here, we were able to find a decimal (first number box) that we knew would divide evenly. We had to manipulate the number (multiply 1/10 or multiply by 1/100) to get our desired decimal, but it worked. And hey, they are getting extra practice with place value!

I am happy to report that things went much more smoothly today. They kids were still a little perplexed as to how to confidently divide, but that’s why we’re in school; to learn. They got to see me fail, which is always a bonus. And they saw how the reflection and iteration are a part of the failure process.