Unraveling the Number Line

I want to share four important strategies for using number lines effectively in upper elementary grades. I have been concerned about the use of the number line, especially in upper elementary grades, because I’ve seen mixed results. There are times when I’ve seen teachers and students using the number line very effectively. And there are other times where it seems that the use of the number line can lead to complicated results and a lot of frustration.

Lean On!

Make Teaching More Public and Coach One Another

The script from an Ignite! speech delivered at the NCSM National Conference on April 13, 2016.

The Cognitive Sequence of Place Value Models

Upper elementary students must master place value in order to understand large numbers, and visual models can play a pivotal role. Grasping the base ten system is a big cognitive step from the one-to-one correspondence of counting and ordinance. By the fourth grade, students are working with numbers so large that counting is completely impractical. They must understand groups of ten, one hundred, and beyond by learning the value of each place in the base ten system.

Harry Potter and the Math Demon

It is 9:30 pm. A sixth-grader is curled around the pages of Harry Potter while his mother cajoles him to turn off the light. This youngster will apply his reading skills for the rest of his life. He will slay demons, travel to worlds real and fictional, and communicate with friends near and far - all through the gift of literacy. What will be his tangible rewards for developing strong sixth-grade mathematics skills? Is he, as an emerging young man, confident that math will play a meaningful role in his future? We, as educators, need to show students their true math powers at an early age.

Let the Kids Dance!

I am sitting on an airplane with the movie Footloose playing in the background. True to my nature, watching the movie makes me think about math education. In the film, teens are unhappy about rules and expectations imposed on them. In the math classroom, students are similarly unhappy with the requirements. Are there any real parallels here? Let’s see.