Kindness Quilt MATH

I have shared about how we started building our Kindness Quilt and then an update on how it’s growing!

Here’s another SUPER idea that grew out of it, based on a conversation we had in math a week or so ago. 🙂

Kids had been asking questions about how big the quilt might be, or how many squares we have gotten so far from other classes, and also just “What will it look like?”, so I pulled up this picture for them to reference.

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Then I asked them to think of two things (based on the protocol you might do with a 3 Act Lesson): What do you notice?  What do you wonder?

These were their answers:


Now…the whole point of the wonderings was to give them some tasks to complete, right? So we then went back through that list of questions and tried to decide which were ones we could actually use math to figure out.  We noted connections, as well as marking off ones that were just interesting, but not “answerable.”


After we had discussed the ones that we could actually tackle, mathematicians were invited to choose one with which they could get started.  Everyone declared their favorite and went to get started.  There were no “rules” except that they had to find a way to record their thinking so they could show us their answer.  (As a sidenote, as we got started, we had to have a conversation about what “recording” might mean–we use Seesaw so frequently that it only meant “using your voice to tell about your work.”  Oops. Guess we should talk about that more often. )

As kids got started, it was fun to watch the different strategies that they employed, including iPads, number lines, and fingers.

And aside from the different tools they chose to use, it was great to watch how EVERYONE had a place to enter this investigation!  No one felt like they couldn’t do it, like it was too hard or like it was no fun.  This was a highly motivating topic (they had all made the quilt!), with interesting questions (that they had come up with!), and they got to choose which question they wanted to answer (based on any criteria–which was easiest, which was most interesting, which was most challenging, etc.).  EVERYONE was engaged, for the whole time!  Kiddos worked alone and in partners–again, their choice–to answer as many of our wonderings as they could.

Check out what they discovered!

What questions would you ask about our quilt?  We’d love to hear them–and maybe even try to answer them! 🙂


Math Play Day

After the success of Global School Play Day, my first grade team was ALL IN on how to give our kiddos more opportunities to play.  In all the subjects.  On any given day.

And it was incredibly convenient that at the end of Global School Play Day, we had team time to discuss just that topic! #luckyus #firstgradedoubleplanforthewin

After we tossed around several ideas, we landed on trying something in math first.  And we also decided that using The Periodic Table of Play as our resource for ideas would be the best place to start.  Our district has done work with Laura Seargeant Richardson, and has committed to putting play up at the top of a list of priorities for all kids and adults in our district.  We have a deck of Play Possible Schools cards in our library, and they were the perfect place to dig in. 🙂


While the conversation was long and detailed, the short story is that we decided to take one concept (fractions) and each choose a different way to “play” with that idea.  We chose an element of play and then figured out a way to apply that to fractions.

There are only five of us, and eleven elements, so we tried to have a variety of options.

We decided on:                Screenshot 2019-02-20 20.06.39

Before the chosen date of our Play Day, we planned what part of our element we could focus on, and got ready for our activity.  In order for kiddos to be able to choose their play place (which was another crucial part of our plan–kid choice!!), we put together a Google Slides presentation to invite them to come play with us!

No one knew which teacher they would end up with or really what they would be working on until they showed up–which added to the excitement and motivation!

Here’s what kiddos chose to do.  Check out how much fun they had!!

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This group observed a science experiment that included using different parts of an Alka-Seltzer and predicting/watching what happened.  Kiddos recorded their thinking with words and pictures.

Lucy had some words to explain her math time today:

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Friends in this group worked with Legos to represent different unit fractions in a variety of ways.  What a fun way to use a typical first grade classroom tool!

Screenshot 2019-02-20 20.04.01 Mathematicians in this group worked in a pizza restaurant!  They got to take turns being a chef (and making fraction pizzas), taking orders and also making a menu.  What an authentic and FUN way to apply fraction knowledge!

Check out Ali’s explanation of what she did!

Screenshot 2019-02-20 20.04.10  Friends that worked in the “feeling” group used their senses of touch and smell to explore fractions.  Listen to Riley explain what she did and why she liked it! Spoiler alert: This was the BEST DAY of math, EVER!

Screenshot 2019-02-20 20.04.17 This was my group. 🙂 . In this one, mathematicians were invited to plan, create and then play (well we didn’t get to this part, but will do it later!) a game about fractions.  Kiddos chose to work alone, in partnerships and also in groups of 3.

And check out what Hailey had to say about what she did and why she liked math today. 🙂

So…can you tell that this first ever First Grade Math Play Day was a roaring success??  Everyone involved had fun and we even noticed that there were not any behavior issues during our play time, either. 🙂 . I mean not surprising, though, right–when everyone is having so much fun learning??

After reflecting on the day, we noticed that a large number of our kiddos chose the groups that played with Legos and made games.  And many of the ones who didn’t get to do that today said that they would choose it if they had a chance again.

And now we’re left with some questions to chew on.  When will we do this again?  Will we try math again?  Same topic or another one?  Should we try another subject?  How can we use what we learned about how our kids like to CREATE and MANIPULATE to better meet their needs at mathematicians (even on regular math days)?  We’re excited to think through the answers (and possibilities) and get another play day on the calendar!

Will you join us?  We’d love to hear your thoughts about our try at math play, and also at how you do this in your own classroom!  Leave a comment with your ideas! 🙂

There’s Math in That Book!–Twenty Yawns by Jane Smiley and Lauren Castillo

I remember when we were reading Going Places and Beckett found some pretty amazing math in a picture that was in the book.  We tweeted to Peter H. Reynolds to ask him if he knew about it, and/or if he did it on purpose.

We were tickled when he replied–because when authors talk to you it’s a BIG DEAL!!

Well, we were reading another book the other day–Twenty Yawns by Jane Smiley and Lauren Castillo–and something similar happened.

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As we finished the book (which is a super sweet story about a girl who is trying to go to sleep and not surprisingly does lots of yawning), I asked why the author would have named the book Twenty Yawns.  I thought someone would say “because there are 20 yawns in the story,” but surprisingly that was not what they suggested.  Somehow we got into a little tat about how there were 21 yawns in the book.  What??  I’m still not entirely sure if the friends who were so convinced about the 21 yawns were for real, or if they wanted to cause a ruckus, but regardless, Ali saved the day by saying we should count them and figure it out.

So…we went back through the story and paid attention to how many yawns were on each page, creating an equation that looked like this:

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Next we talked about the different ways kiddos could PROVE that there were or were not 21 (or 20!) yawns in the book.  Our list looked like this:Screenshot 2019-02-18 13.26.11

It was actually really lucky, too, how the problem worked out because we have been working on combinations of 10 and I was hoping that kiddos would find the 10s in there first, and then quickly come to the answer of 20.  Not all did, which is fine–we’ll keep working–but many did. 🙂 .

Check out some of our thinking (which we are still working on, by the way!).

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I LOVE it when we can take a story and turn it into a math problem!  What an authentic context and motivating activity. 🙂 . And while anytime we stretch our math brains it’s a good thing, I especially love it when the numbers in the book match the numbers we’re working on.  Way to go, Smiley and Castillo!  Did you do that on purpose for us? 🙂

What books have you read that have math in them?  Tell us about it so we can try it, too! 🙂


Sharing our Shape Art

During 2nd quarter of first grade one of our units (which I think is one of the most fun to teach and learn about!) is geometry.  A few years ago, it was also a time when we were visited by a fabulous artist who taught us about watercolors and a new geometry/art project was born.  The topic has been different every year (for example last year kiddos had to make their house), but the focus every time has been on using what they know about 2D shapes to create a picture, then paint it.

We used shapes we had already learned about and used in math (pattern blocks that were squares, trapezoids, rhombuses, hexagons and triangles) and traced them to create a design.  It was pretty tricky for some of us, as we’re still working on fine-motor skills and the tracing part can be hard!  No worries, though, because in Rm. 111 we have a boatload of grit and we just kept trying!

After we had a pencil drawing that covered the whole page (which is an expectation we have whenever we do a painting or drawing project on big paper), we were ready to paint it.  Kiddos were asked to paint it to match the colors of the actual blocks.

As with most watercolor projects we do, the last step is to trace our pencil marks with Sharpie.  This makes the shapes crisp and clear.

Our last step is to analyze the creation, showing what we know about the shapes we’ve been working on.  Kiddos completed a sheet called Shape Talk, that went along with their mathematical design.



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Often, depending on the time year this unit happens, mathematicians may be asked to write equations to show how many of two shapes they have altogether, for example: triangles + hexagons =

Once these were finished, they hung on our hallway bulletin board for a while and they were BEAUTIFUL to look at every day!  Check out our hard work!


Our First Mystery Number Skype!

I shared our first Mystery Skype experiences with Ms. Turken’s brothers last week and how great the were.  After those two great starts, I hit up my Twitter friends to find our next Skype opportunity.  Instead of a location Skype, though, I had an offer for a Mystery Number Skype.  

We got our day started by answering a easel question that asked: “If you wanted to figure out my mystery number, what questions would you ask?”  We practiced with how to ask things that would put the numbers into groups, or to narrow down the whole 100s chart into smaller pieces, rather than just ask “Is it 47?” or “Is your number 82?”

We had a few practice rounds, using 2-digit numbers less than 50 (because we had agreed upon this with our Skyping friends), and then we were ready to go!

Armed with 100s charts and super math questioning skills, we called our new friends, who were in Kansas.

One of the things I love about doing Mystery Skypes (numbers and locations) is watching how kids step to the plate, so to speak, and try things they are unsure about.  In this situation, kiddos seem to be more willing to take risks and try things that they aren’t sure is totally correct, to throw out ideas that may not work.  Kiddos who may not be first to speak up in class volunteer to ask questions and talk to the other class, and we meet new friends in new places that we can solve problems with–why would you NOT do Mystery Skypes all the time??

I was excited to hear kiddos use the vocabulary we had used on our practice runs, like LESS THAN, GREATER THAN, EVEN, ODD, as well as TENS and ONES.  They worked hard to then mark their 100s chart to match the information they were receiving from their friends, and in the end we figured out their number was 20!!

And, you can see in the picture, that our number was 39, which they guessed correctly, too!! 🙂

Who wants to do a Mystery Number Skype with us?  We’re keen to try again, and soon we’ll be ready for a 3-digit number!!

10 Lego Math

Last week during our Bike Rodeo in PE, we did a math investigation around how many wheels were on the bikes in our bike row in the gym (yeah, I know…I should have shared that post first.  Sorry. 🙂 ).

It was our first try with math notebooks and working to communicate our mathematical thinking in words, pictures and numbers.  Kiddos are expected to be able to do that thoughtfully and clearly, based on this rubric:

Screenshot 2017-09-27 21.26.34This is an end-of-year expectation, but we learn about it early and work on it all year in different ways.

As I looked over the work kiddos had recorded in their notebooks, I noticed that kiddos mainly just wrote numbers.  Ok, really a number.  Just the answer to whatever question they were working on.  The words and pictures parts were pretty much MIA.  It’s still early, so this is neither surprising nor worrisome–we just need some work on what it means to clearly and concisely show what we did to solve a problem.

While we could have done this in a variety of ways, I took a super smart suggestion from my friend, Mrs. Marks, (who you might remember inspired this Lego Leading/Following lesson) who thought she would walk a bit backward and have her kiddos work on just representing something really small they that had counted, made, etc.  Perhaps because the first “Mrs. Marks” lesson was using Legos, or maybe because they’re the best tool ever, or we all love them or we have a TON of them….but regardless, I framed our next communication lesson around a Lego creation invitation.

With the goal being using words, pictures and numbers (as necessary) to explain their thinking and making their explanation match their creation, kiddos were given a baggie with 10 random Legos.

Then I gave them these directions:


For the first part, kiddos only worked on steps 1 and 2.

As we moved to the next step, I did a think aloud as I drew and then wrote about my own creation.  We talked about what information would be helpful to know if they were going to build a replica of my tower (because that’s what they will be doing next!).  They gave great suggestions of words to use and we revised and added to the words, also discussing what labels might be helpful.


Somehow I didn’t get a picture of my tower, but I promise it looks just like that drawing. 🙂

Kiddos’ next step was to work on their drawings and writing, with nudges along the way to add or revise to make sure their thinking was clear and complete.

Today we finalized our thinking, took a picture (to compare our drawings and creations) and posted our work on Seesaw.  We used the recording feature to read our writing and add any details we thought were important.  Next step is that we will build each other’s creations and discuss what information in our work was helpful, confusing, and/or missing.  We will then try again with another creation and see if improve.  Kiddos have been so excited about this work and I’m excited to see how it impacts our math work going forward.

How do you use Legos to learn?  We’d love to hear your ideas.  🙂

#FDOFG2017–Math in First Grade: Take 2

We started in first grade math with an investigation into how mathematicians use tools and what kind of thinking they do.  Next, we worked through a guided discovery of two more tools: unifix cubes and multilink cubes.  On the surface these look very similar (basically they are just plastic squares in all different colors), but if you dig a little deeper you can find many different ways to use them.  And that was the job first graders were given, by asking the questions “What can you do with these math tools?  What can they help you better understand?”

Kiddos were given some time to explore with each kind of cube, in two small groups. Most kiddos made long sticks or tall towers, comparing how tall they were in relation to other towers or to kiddos.  The ones playing with the multilink cubes, which have circles on all sides of the cubes and can therefore connect in a variety of ways.

After each kiddo had a chance to spend time with each manipulative, we debriefed on what we had discovered.  We figured out that the cubes could be used for many of the same purposes: measuring, counting and making patterns.  BUT–the multi-link cubes could also be used to build 3D things or models.

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For now, these are just for fun, but very soon mathematicians will be using these tools for very important work!  Stay tuned to see more about it! 🙂