Sunday, November 22, 2009

Math Is Hard

I find helping kids understand the concept of place value, specifically of 10s and 1s, to be a significant challenge. Somehow by fourth and fifth grade these kids totally get it, but I have no idea how their primary teachers taught them! Now that I am one of those primary teachers I'm struggling with this.

We often use these blocks to illustrate the equivalency. But I'm not convinced that it makes it really clear unless you are already accepting of the concept. So last week I decided we needed a bit more obvious of a picture to help with seeing this. I pulled out our 100 chart and we put in blocks to illustrate each number starting at one.

As we got closer and closer to 10 the kids started to see it was getting crowded. When we got to 10 we put in 10 little blocks. Then, thankfully, one of the kids suggested we try the orange block instead. From there it was easy to do 11, 12, 13, etc. We jumped to the early 20s and early 30s (I knew this would be tough to pull off even in the upper 20s and 30s much less down into the 60s or higher). I'm not sure this worked completely, but I do think it got us off on the right foot.

Title is taken from the controversial Teen Talk Barbie who actually said, "Math class is tough."


Melissa E. said...

The base ten blocks are great--I like how you used the chart with your kids. They so need that physical representation. My problem was always losing the darned things (little base ten blocks) and then stepping on them later. I always used money to teach place value, because the kids seemed to understand that better. We'd play games where we counted money and traded in ten pennies for a dime and ten dimes for a dollar. Only problem is, you couldn't use nickels or quarters.

Rachel L said...

I have had students play a similar game called Trade Up (or Trade Down if subtracting). Kids took turns rolling a die and putting the matching number of cubes on the "ones" side of their playing board (The board was just two different colored pieces of paper, side by side). When there are more than 9 cubes the player gets to trade for a ten block and put it on the "tens" side. First player to 100 wins. It really seemed to help and kids loved playing.