Category Archives: Mental Math

Math is so cool! I love number talks!

It really is!  I think I have learned way more about math as a teacher than I ever did as a student, and I enjoy is so much more now then I did then.  Wow.  This has been a journey that began ten years ago when I took a Math Solutions (Marilyn Burn’s) 5-day course on teaching elementary school math and I just continue to learn and grow.

I’ve been doing number talks for a long time.  A number talk is when the class has a discussion about numbers. I pose problems on the SMART board and ask the children for solutions and we discuss patterns and strategies in math.  For example, we often play silent multiplication, the game is silent until the end until we discuss patterns and strategies.  Here is an example:

2 x 4 =  8

4 x 4 =  16

8 x 4 = 32

16 x 4 = 64

What do you think I want the students to get from this?  If you guessed using doubling you are correct.  The students will notice that if one factor doubles then the product also doubles.  Today I asked the grade fives to predict what would happen is we doubled both factors.  What do you think?

Yesterday we had some PD (professional development) around math and I found there is still much to learn.   I’ve been trying to help the students learn about the associative and distributive properties of multiplication for years with varying levels of success.  What are those you ask?  Good question:

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You can break factors up into smaller numbers and still get the same product.  Well, I’ve used that for a long time with double digit numbers.  For example,

15 x 5 =

10 x 5 = 50

5 x 5 = 23

50 + 25 = 75

But some of the students struggle with this and yesterday I had an epiphany – they don’t really understand about breaking the numbers apart and I need to do it with single digit numbers first so today that’s what the grade 4s did.  All the students had tiles on their desks and I asked them to solve 2 x 7 = using the tiles to make an array.  Then I put up 4 x 7 =  and Courtney remembered the doubling strategy from another day (yay!).  Next I put up 3 x 7 and asked them to use some of the facts they already know on the board to solve 7 x7 =


There were a couple of students who saw that they could use 3 x 7  & 4 x 7 to help them solve 7 x 7.  All they had to do was add the products 28 + 21 = 49 to get the answer.

7 groups of 7 is the same as 3 groups of 7 + 4 groups of 7.  They broke the first 7 into a 3 & 4.

Super cool!  We need to do some more work on this until all the students see it but we will get there!!!!!

I found some of the Math Solutions number talks on YouTube if you are interested in watching.  I will try to get someone to film one of ours so you can see our class in action!  Stay tuned.

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Posted by on March 4, 2014 in Math, Mental Math, Operations


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Quadblogging & a Math Test

We have a math test tomorrow.  The students have been reviewing since Friday and seem to be ready.  Topics covered are place value, ordering numbers, multiplying using different strategies and using mental math to multiply (explaining your thinking).


I am very excited that we have joined Quadblogging.  We have teamed up with three other schools around the world and we will take turns focussing on one classes blog.  For example, we will all be looking at 5Ts blog this week.  5T is a class from Birmingham, England.  The other three classes will be reading their blog and commenting on it.  We are learning about how to give postive and specific feedback in our comments.   Check out 5Ts site here.  They have some great weather presentation videos!

In English we looked at the rubric for reading logs.  We will be spending time this week examining our own reading logs and our peers reading logs and using the rubric to improve them and get to an A!

The reading log rubric is here.


Posted by on October 1, 2012 in Assessment, Blogging, Math, Mental Math


Summarizing & Math Tricks

Today in English we talked about a good summary. When we summarize a book, or part of a book, we have to give just the right amount of details. Enough for the reader to understand what has happened, but not so many that our summary is too long. That means we just focus on the main events (in fiction – we will look at non-fiction later). We used this graphic organizer to help us only include the main events and to help us use transition words.

In math we were looking at tricks for multiplying by 10, 100s and multiples of 10s and 100s.


;We are discovering that if we don’t know our times tables and division facts very well that we have a hard time applying this trick.  When a child has to spend all of her cognitive energy just trying to figure out what 6 x 7 is then there is little room left to learn new material.  That is why I am offering Reflex Math to the students as a homework problem.  If you did not send the form in, please do so tomorrow.

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Posted by on September 24, 2012 in Comprehension Strategies, Mental Math


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More Blogging

Today we spent our English class writing blog posts and commenting on our classmates blogs. Please go check out our blogs by clicking on the link to the right – Our Class Blogs and then clicking on Our Blogs. For now the students are writing about themselves and their interests. In the near future we will be writing about meaty topics such as child labour and other global and local issues. Please leave comments, the kids love them!

In math we presented how our “The Day You Were Born” activity. We also practiced multiplying by breaking numbers apart. Many of the students need more practice with this strategy which helps them develop a stronger understanding of number sense and multiplying.

For example, 25 x 5 =

20 x 5 = 100
5 x 5 = 25

100 + 25 = 125

I also noticed that quite a few need to work on memorizing their times tables so please sign them up for Reflex Math – I sent a note home with the fives yesterday and the sixes will get the note tomorrow.

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Posted by on September 19, 2012 in Blogging, Mental Math


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Beginning our Routines

Today we started to learn our Math and Language Arts (English) routines.

In math I use a three-part lesson. The first part is a “minds on” activity that warms up our brains for the main course. Then we have the lesson which can be in the form of a problem to solve, a game, practice, review, etc. Finally, there is the consolidation where we discuss and write about what we have learned that day (or for the past few days if the lesson takes longer). The lessons will be differentiated by grade and by readiness level of the students. Today we played a game called “Get to 1000”. This game reinforces multiplying and adding skills, problem solving and strategizing.

Get to 1000

Materials Needed:

One die for each pair.

Directions for playing:

1. Player, in pairs, take turns rolling a die. On each roll, each player decides separately whether he or she wants to multiply the number on the die by 1, 10, or 100.

2. Each player records the rsulting product on a piece of paper.

3. Players continue to roll, multiply, and record their products until they each have ten products on their paper. (5 times each)

4. Each player finds the sum of their products. The one whose final score is closer to 1000 wins.

In English we learned about meta-cognition, thinking about our thinking while we read. Good readers use many strategies to help them understand the text. We will be learning about and using many strategies this year.

We also started our Daily Five routines which are outlined here:

We have just begun our Daily 5 and CAFÉ adventure! This is the reading and writing program implemented in my classroom.

Daily 5 is the structure we will use to plan our morning. Children will be busy completing meaningful literacy tasks. The choices will be:

Read to self
Work on writing
Word Work
Listen to reading
Read to Someone

Right now, we are focusing on increasing our stamina to work independently during Read to Self and Read to Someone. Within the next few months, the other choices will be introduced. While the students are completing their literacy tasks, I will be meeting with small groups and conferencing with individual students.

Daily 5 is how we schedule our language block. CAFÉ is what we study during this time. CAFÉ is an acronym for the four major components of reading. They are:

C for Comprehension
A for Accuracy
F for Fluency
E for Expanding Vocabulary

The children will learn reading strategies within each category. These strategies will become tools for the children to use to help themselves become better readers and writers. I will keep you informed when new strategies are introduced. Then, when you read with your child at home, you will be able to reinforce these concepts.

It is going to be exciting to watch your child’s reading and writing skills blossom throughout the year. If you have any questions regarding this program, please ask. I am always enthusiastic to share what I know about Daily 5 and CAFÉ!

We had a good day!


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What a Great First Day!

I really enjoyed seeing the 5/6 students again. I’m still learning some names but they all know to correct me if I get them wrong.

Today I showed the class this video to introduce myself to them. We will be making similar class videos highlighting everyone’s interests.

We also watched this video created by Royan Lee, a teacher whom I admire very much. I had the good fortune to meet him in August and will be seeing him again at ECOO – a conference I will be attending in October.

Today the class did a formative spelling test. It’s purpose is to show me what they know and what they need to work on. The words are carefully selected to hit on specific phonics rules and spelling patterns. Once they are all marked I will conference with each students and we will begin the work. I will send the conference notes and goals home.

We also looked at number bonding in math. All numbers can be bonded together to make new ones or deconstructed into smaller numbers. We played some games with dice making bonds to 10. Being able to use friendly numbers like 10, 100, 1000 etc. is very helpful for mental math and computation, as well as conceptual understanding.

Here is an online game for bonding to 100 practice.

I hope the students enjoyed their day as much as I did. See everyone tomorrow when we will begin our regular routines!


Posted by on September 4, 2012 in Math, Mental Math, Word Work


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