April 2017 - Down River Resources
Multiplication and division can be difficult concepts to teach, especially if your second grade students have no prior experience with this type of thinking. It happens every year!  Multiplication and division problems are fundamentally different than addition and subtraction problem situations because of the types of quantities represented. Multiplication and division are taught together so that student can see that one operation is the reverse of the other. Let's make this year different! Using the mathematical principle of unitizing and the "GET" strategy, students will build their proficiency as they learn contextual multiplication and division in the math classroom.

Teaching Multiplication and Division in the Classroom 

Multiplication and Division are fundamentally different than addition and subtraction.

A simple addition problem situation could be: Ann has 3 cookies. Laura have her 4 more cookies. How many cookies does Ann have now? 

A simple multiplication problem situation could be: Ann has 3 bags of cookies with 4 cookies in each bag. How many cookies does Ann have? 

The numbers are the same but the quantities represented are different. This shift in thinking is what gives most students difficulty when transitioning from the operations of addition and subtraction to multiplication and division.

Second grade students need to be able to model, create, and describe contextual multiplication and division situations. What if there was something that could help bridge the gap for these students?

Unitizing Helps Students Shift Their Thinking 

 Have you heard of unitizing? It is an important, and often unknown, math word. Unitizing gives students a change in perspective.

Think back to the development of numeracy. Children learn to count objects one by one, also known as one-to-one correspondence. Instead of counting ten objects one by one, students can unitize them as one thing or one group. Another example of unitizing can be found within place value. Whenever we have 10 or more in a place value unit, we need to regroup. Thus, ten ones can also be thought of as a unit of ten.

This concept of unitizing is a big shift for students. It almost negates what our students originally learned about numbers. We want to help our students achieve the developmental milestone of unitizing. Unitizing is the underlying principle that guides students' learning.

Students need to use numbers to count, not only objects, but also groups... and to count them both simultaneously. Unitizing helps students build their proficiency in contextual multiplication and division.

Students need to be explicitly taught this principle and exposed to seeing it in action multiple times, much less subitizing in these primary grade levels. Show the students ten objects and tell them, " This is one group of 10." It seems simple, right? It is actually quite tricky for students to grasp, so repeat yourself...and repeat yourself. 

Multiplication and Division Strategy: Did You "GET" It?

Another trick for tackling multiplication and division is a little-known strategy. G-E-T is a simple acronym for an effective strategy when teaching contextual multiplication and division.

I have used the acronym before but I added this first step which helps build students' meta-cognition.

After reading through a word problem that involves multiplication or division, ask yourself: "Did you GET it?" If your answer is "yes," you probably followed these steps:

1. Read through the word problem at LEAST once.
2. Circle and label the number representing the GROUPS. (How many groups are the objects being divided  into?)*
3. Circle and label the number representing the EACH. (How many objects are within each group?)
4. Circle and label the number or noun represent the TOTAL. (How many total objects are altogether or in total?)

*When students label, they circle the number and noun (example: 12 cats) and they write the word to describe that part of the word problem (example: in this case, 12 cats would represent the total. The students would write the word TOTAL or the letter "T" on top of the circle.)

If your students label these three parts to a word problem, it will be so much easier solving for the unknown, whether is be the dividend, divisor, quotient, factors, or product.

Labeling word problems using the "GET" strategy is a non-negotiable in second and third grades! Of course, modeling and guided practice is a must before this layer of accountability takes effect! 

I hope this post inspires you to build your students' concept of unitizing and their proficiency with the "GET" strategy, and if you want to use my interactive math notebook on contextual multiplication and division, it's in my TpT shop.

What are some ways you build your students' proficiency in multiplication and division?

* References: Fosnot, C. & Dolk, M. (2001). Young mathematician at work: Constructing Multiplication and Division, NH: Heinemann. 
Spring brings butterflies, chicks, blossoms, and... plastic eggs! People near and far hunt for these special spherical objects hidden in secret places. I tend to just go straight to the seasonal aisles of my favorite stores and find a wide variety of plastic eggs to choose from with a lot less hassle. In recent years, the stores are stocking an eclectic mix of eggs. These eggs include special shapes (animals and carrots), unique patterns (faith-based words, animal print, camouflage), extra-sparkly glitter, golden, and transparent eggs...these probably just list the ones stocked at eye-level! I stockpile a large assortment of these diverse eggs and pair them with rigorous math concepts to create the perfect math centers for kindergarten, first, and second grades. While my ideas are focused on these grade levels, many of them can be adapted for other grades too! This is my go-to list for simple math centers using plastic eggs.

Creating the Best Math Centers Using Plastic Eggs

Matching Math Centers

Plastic eggs are versatile! You can write on them, fill them, or do both!

I love writing on them....probably because I stockpile school supplies like my husband stockpiles freeze-dried rations (insert "yuck" face!)

Numeral + Tens Frames (Kindergarten)

Grab a regular Sharpie marker and some of those eggs and get marking! One of my favorite ways for students to use the two parts of a plastic egg is to match the numeral to the tens frame. This helps students read and represent whole numbers 0 to 20 with objects (TEKS K.2B.)

You can also match the numeral to a tally mark, subitizing dots, the number word, or stickers placed on one of the parts!

Composing Ten (Kindergarten, First, & Second Grades)

Another way to use the "matching" concept is composing numbers. When two numbers are added together, this is called composing numbers. Students simply match two one-digit addends which add up to 10.

Kindergarten and first grade students are asked to compose numbers to 10 (TEKS K.2I & 1.3C.) This concept of putting two numbers together to form one can also build a second grade student's automaticity with basic facts (TEKS 2.4A.)

Stacking Math Centers

This might be my favorite way to use plastic eggs! Since you are only using one of the parts, the eggs go a long way. You will have more pieces to create more centers...and what do I want to make? More centers! 

Counting by Tens (Kindergarten & First Grades)

I love how simple algebraic reasoning skills can be practiced by stacking the pieces into a tower. Your students will think the best part of this math center is trying to make the tower stay up. It is VERY common that the entire tower will fall, so students are practicing a lot more than just algebraic reasoning with this center.

I use this center for counting by 10s (TEKS K.5.) This same concept can be applied to skip counting by 2s, 5s, and 10s (TEKS 1.5B.) Skip counting is also a great skill to continue practicing in second grade as the students will apply this skill to contextual multiplication. 

Sequencing Math Centers

No matter which grade level you teach, you can use this concept of sequencing numbers with plastic eggs. The concept remains unchanged, but the numbers will be different. You can also tailor this center to your students' needs. You may have a student who is struggling or advanced, whichever the case, add eggs with the numbers that best suits students' needs.

Kindergarten students practice numbers 0 through 20 (TEKS K.A,) while first grade students use numbers up to 120 (TEKS 1.2F.) Second grade students practice ordering numbers up to 1,200 (TEKS 2.2D.)

Ordering Whole Numbers (Kindergarten, First, & Second Grades)

This egg carrier was purchased at Dollar General for $2. They can also be found at Dollar Tree for $1. Most of these egg carriers hold 12 or 24 eggs. You can make the exact amount of eggs needed or less. The carrier just acts as a place holder for the eggs.

The best thing of all if that there is a center section which can hold the pile of eggs (see the top part of the image.) Students can pick up one egg at a time and place it in a spot. As students pick up additional eggs, they may need to move eggs as the place value of each of the numbers is determined. The carrier works as an open number line.

Filled Math Centers

Using filled plastic eggs, you could teach any math skill! You can write numbers, draw shapes, or create word problems on a piece of paper, fold it up, and place it inside a plastic egg! That's as simple as ABC, friends. I use a variety of materials to fill the eggs just to keep my students interested in egg activities so they are not repetitive.

_ More and _ Less (Kindergarten, First, & Second Grades)

Yes, there is a reason I left a blank in the title for this section! You can tailor this center to meet the needs of any grade level or any child.

Kindergarten students are working on one more and one less (TEKS K.2F,) while first grade students are learning 10 more and 10 less than a given number up to 120 (TEKS 1.5.) Second graders expand on this idea by determining the number than is 10 or 100 more or less than a given number up to 1,200 (TEKS 2.7B.)

You can place a card within the math center to indicate if the students are working on the number than is _ more or _ less than the given number or they can generate both numbers.

I had students simply take a strip of notebook paper and number it, like we do for spelling tests, then students drew their eggs, opened them up, and recorded their answers individually. The example shown is for first grade (10 more and 10 less than a given number). The numbers on the eggs represent the problem number for recording purposes. The number on the sticky note is the number that students use to generate their answers.

Counting (Kindergarten)

We all need another excuse to buy those irresistibly cute Target erasers, right?! Well, here's another one!

Fill the eggs with a certain number of erasers. Students will open one egg at a time and count to determine the quantity held in the eggs. I numbered the eggs so that the students can record their answers.

Again, I used a strip of notebook paper and had students number it, like we do for spelling tests. As they select eggs out of the basket or container, they record the answer on the corresponding line.

Kindergarten students are learning to count forward to 20 (TEKS K.2A,) and counting a set of objects up to at least 20 (TEKS K.2C.) This activity also build students' one-to-one number correspondence. 

Graphing (Kindergarten, First, and Second Grades)

This same concept of filling the eggs or placing objects within them can be applied to data collection, each egg could contain a specific object (erasers, jelly beans, etc.) and students record the data on a bar graph or picture graph. Students are learning how to collect and organize data (TEKS K.8ABC, 1.8ABC, 2.10CD.)

Coin Collections (First and Second Grades)

Fill plastic eggs with coins. I try to use real coins when I am able to as they are more life-like. Plus, there are so many varieties of coins, I have yet to find a math manipulative that captures their new look. Each egg is filled with a different combination of coins.

First graders are learning how to count by 1s to add up the value of pennies and skip count by 5s and 10s to add up the value of nickels and dimes (TEKS 1.4ABC). Second grade students are determining the value of a collection of coins up to one dollar (TEKS 2.5AB.)

I used a strip of notebook paper and had students number it, like we do for spelling tests. As they select eggs out of the basket or container, they record the answer on the corresponding line. In the example in the photograph, I had the second graders write the value of the collection of coins using the cent symbol and the dollar sign and decimal point to specifically meet the rigor within the second grade standard (TEKS 2.5B.) First graders would write the value of the collection of coins using the cent symbol.

Whew! That was a plethora of ways that you are create the BEST math centers using plastic eggs. I love that each of these math centers are rigorous.

Did you notice each idea I used was standards-based and met the specificity described? Students are practicing the power words in education: determining, generating, representing, composing! These are the higher-order thinking skills we want them to use and practice, practice, practice. Why not use plastic eggs to accomplish this? 

In addition, these dynamic math centers are be differentiated based on your students' needs. If your students has not mastered three-digit numbers, create some eggs with two-digits. If your students have surpassed the grade level goal, make them four-digit numbers! I love using plastic eggs in math centers as they are rigorous and meet the needs of diverse learners in my classroom.

I hope this inspires you to turn those leftover plastic eggs into some engaging math centers for diverse learners!

What is your favorite way to use plastic eggs for math centers?

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Plastic eggs are not just for an Easter egg hunts! After a delicious Easter meal, the kids take part in a large Easter egg hunt at my parent's house. There are so many good hiding spots and, as usual, the older kids dominate the hunt. Colorful, plastic eggs jingle with coins and jellybeans...chocolate and a dollar bills too, but only if you are lucky! After a few quick minutes, everyone gathers back on the porch. The kids quickly hide their money (after counting it, of course!) and throw their eggs into a large sack. While everyone is eating jelly beans and some eat chocolate, I begin my favorite activity of the post-Easter season! I re-purpose those colorful, plastic eggs and create rigorous math centers that can be used for the rest of the school year. While I hunt high and low for interesting eggs, I can never have enough. So, what's the big deal with plastic eggs? I'm glad you asked...

Top Five Reasons to Use Plastic Eggs in Your Math Centers

1. Plastic eggs are inexpensive...unless you buy an entire cart full of them. Guilty as charged!

Most of the eggs I buy are about 98 cents to $2.00 per package. Of course, the basic colorful eggs are most inexpensive, while the larger, themed eggs are most expensive. I try and think about what I would like to use them for before I buy so I can have a quantity in mind...but most of the time I just buy, at least, two packages. That way, I am guaranteed to have a little variety in whatever I end up creating! I mean, when you see cute eggs you just buy them...kind of like those Target erasers. Gasp!

2. Plastic eggs can be used year-round. There is so much diversity in the type of eggs you can buy, you can use them seasonally and/or with your classroom themes.

I have eggs with sports theme that I use during those seasons. I also use the animal-shaped eggs to coincide with teaching about organisms. I love making as many cross-curricular connections using math as possible. Not only is it a great way to spiral, or revisit, previously taught content, it also gets the students engaged with the theme!

3. Plastic eggs provide a hands-on, or tactile, way which stimulates the brain.

Tactile learning take place when the students are carrying out the actual physical activity! Whether the students are sorting through the eggs or opening them up, students are actively participating in the math center.

4. Plastic eggs are versatile.... they can be written on with a permanent marker, stickers can be added on them, and/or they can be filled!

Pick your favorite way to use plastic eggs, mix it up, or use them all! Plastic eggs allow you to use them creatively to accomplish your specific learning goals for math centers.

My favorite writing tool to use on plastic eggs is a regular Sharpie marker in black. It goes on nice and smooth. I tried the flip chart version of the marker and it left marks.

5. Plastic eggs are reusable! Not only can you have an amaaazing Easter egg hunt with them, but you can use them within a center.

Don't worry if you are late to the Easter egg party! If you create a last-minute center this year, it will be ready to go for next year! You can break apart the eggs to compress them for storage, creating towers of like ends. Perhaps, you can even find some eggs on clearance... fingers crossed!

Why would you buy plastic eggs for your math classroom?

Have you heard of the interactive math game, Splat!? There are different variations and different games with the same name, but I use this interactive game to get my students engaged about a particular math concept which we have already learned. It can be used for interactive math reviews. It encourages students to analyze number relationships to connect and communicate mathematical ideas. This is a process standard that students can always use more support in practicing. Splat! is a fun way to apply mathematical concepts and makes for a fun math center, small group, or whole group game.

Using Splat! in the Math Classroom

Suggested Age Range for Activity

Splat! can be used with any grade level of students, just make sure that the content being reviewed is developmentally age appropriate or specific to your grade level's standards. 

Preparing for Activity 

Splat! games are relatively easy to prep. You will need a tall cylindrical tower. It works best with a potato chip can!

If you needed an excuse to buy more potato chips, here it is! After all, once you pop, the fun just doesn't stop! Now, the fun can continue for your entire school year! 

First, print out the cards. Then, cut out the cards and laminate. My games are created in both blackline, for ink savings, and in color which really makes the fun seasonal faces POP!

Regardless of which route you take, I recommend printing the cover for the cylindrical can in color. I use white copy paper so it bends around the surface better. I added some colorful complimentary washi tape on the top edge.

If using a tall can, you will need something to make up the difference, as the paper is only 8x11 inches tall. If you use a new shorter can, you will have to cut a little of the space on the top as the height of the can is shorter than the paper! (I've tried both ways! The really good flavors of chips come in the shorter cans! I like using the tall cans so I can utilize my colorful washi tape!)

To make it last longer and protect it from water and dirty hands, add packing tape around the paper as a protective

Teacher Tip: The thing that I love the most about Splat! is that the can you use to create the tower in the game also serves as storage for all of the game cards! 

To make the cards self-correcting, mark the correct answers with an adhesive dot on the back (yard sale sticker). If playing with your class, there is no need for this step, unless you will be adding it to an independent math center or station or using it for an activity for early finishers.

Reviewing Math Concepts with the Game Splat!

I try to find simple skills in the list of standards that could be turned into a one line question for the games I create.

Kindergarten Sample Questions:
What is 1 more than 6?
What is 1 less than 8?

First Grade Sample Questions:
What is 10 more than 55?
What is 10 less than 34?

Second Grade Sample Questions:
Is 27 odd or even?
Is 15 odd or even?

How to Play the Interactive Game Splat!

To play, set a timer for the amount of time you have to play, or stop play when the session is over.

1. Mix up the cards (math question cards + Did Somebody Say Splat Cards + challenge cards). Place the deck of cards facedown on the table.

2. Have players read the card and generate the correct response. The player should say that answer three times. This is my variation, but can be modified however you'd like.

3. After they answer the question, they place the card on the top of the tower.

If players pick a Did Somebody Say, “Splat?” card, they should simply place that card carefully on top of the “tower.”

If it stays there securely, that players turn is over. If that card or any other cards go SPLAT (falls off the tower,) that player must take all cards that fell.

If they pick a #challenge card they must follow the directions on the card. The same procedures apply.

The object of the game is to stack cards carefully without making any go SPLAT! Players that knock down cards must take them. 

At the end of play (either when the session ends, the timer rings or there are no more cards to play), the player with the LEAST cards is the winner!

There are so many different ways that you can manipulate the play of this game using the three different cards types. Find the way that you like best and get your students excited about math! 

I hope this post inspires you to use Splat! in your classroom and if you want to use my Splat! games, they're in my TpT shop.

What are some other ways you review math concepts in your classroom?

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