Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Beginning of the Year Math

When I think about first grade math, I think about addition and subtraction.  I think about the stage of each learner: concrete, representational, or abstract.  I think about strategies. I think about fluency.

I started out using our math series and quickly put it back.  I found out that I should also be thinking about depth and breadth.  It made me think about starting off  in a different way.  Here's what I'm doing now to encourage math fluency, strategies, and depth and breadth:

1. Number Talks- math fluency, strategies
This is a short time, in which you show a problem quickly and the students mentally solve.  I ask, "What did you see?  How did you see it?"  This gets the students doing mental math! and it has them explaining their thinking, which directly ties to strategies.  Read more about Number Talks here:  Number Talks Build Numerical Reasoning

2. Open-ended Math Problems- math fluency, strategies and depth and breadth
Immediately I saw that my students do not know how to read and reason with math word problems.  This is one of our most important math standards.  It helps students with reasoning and knowing what to do is essential.  I knew I needed to teach my students to use the reading & math strategies they already have to understand how to plan, solve and check tricky word problems.
OH.MY.WORD using open-ended questions has been the BEST formative assessment I could have ever used.  What strategies do they have?  Are they in concrete, representational, or abstract phase?  Do they have math fact fluency?  Do they understand how to read a problem?  It has opened my eyes in a new way.  I feel like I'm starting off the year really understanding each child's mathematical abilities.  

I have some problems for you here:  OpenEndedMath.  Pages 1-4 have differentiated addition problems on the top and bottom.  Pages 5-8 have differentiated subtraction problems on two separate pages.  

After I created a few problems, I went on TPT and bought Emmy Mac Shop's A Year of Monthly Open Ended Problems.  This is a bundle but you can also buy it separately.  I am very impressed with the quality and am glad I splurged on the bundle!

3. Math Running Records- math strategies, fluency 
I saw and then quickly bought The Classroom Key's Math Running Records, Addition and Subtraction.  I have always loved starting the year by listening to the readers in my room and conducting a running record.  So when I saw this fabulous idea, I knew I wanted to try it.  And it is AH.MAZ.ING!!  It really helps you grasp what your student gets and what they need help on.  I also loved that I could see how long it took each child to solve the problems.  Now that I have finished (just today), I am ready to use the data to help create groups.  This tells you WAY MORE than a math series beginning of the year test...and it helps you get started right away!

I hope you find these tips helpful!  I feel that I finally understand the mathematicians in my class.  I know that our math time will be more meaningful and focused.

Have a lovely night,


  1. This is great! Thank you for sharing!

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