3 Ways to Promote Student Accountability During Number Puzzles - Down River Resources | Your Elementary Math Guide

3 Ways to Promote Student Accountability During Number Puzzles

Number Puzzles are not a new concept in early elementary classrooms. Playing puzzles has been around since...well, a long time! Large quantities of puzzles are available to download at the tip of your finger, but it is up to the teacher to determine how to hold students accountable for their learning while they “play” with them. Let’s be honest...we expect our students to complete the task (number puzzles) during math centers with little direction, interaction, or evidence of learning...GUILTY! After years of simply filling up my tubs with puzzles, I began supporting my students in three SIMPLE ways. (It’s not as puzzling now!)

Number Puzzles Build Proficiency 

1. Establish, Practice, and Enforce Expectations 

When using number puzzles as a math center, it is too easy to add the puzzle pieces to a brightly colored tub or basket and assign students to “work” on them. I mean, how hard can it be to put a puzzle together?! It is more complex IF you want to improve your students’ academic performance. What does that look like? What does it sound like? We often model behaviors, like walking down the hallway and putting away our materials; why not apply that same model to teach students how to work on number puzzles? This is especially important if you will be using number puzzles frequently or as a year-round center.

Number Puzzle Anchor Chart
It’s important to teach the routine of working on number puzzles. Take one puzzle from a set and model the expected behaviors so your students will maximize their math time. 

2. Encourage Accountable Talk During Math Centers 

Student discourse plays a large role in the development of students’ mathematical understanding.Students do not naturally engage in this level of talk so it is our job as teachers to facilitate it. What can students say about number puzzles? A lot! Check it out in the photo below.

Math Sentence Starters

Classrooms are made up of diverse learners whether it be English Language Learners or those with special needs..but really ALL students can benefit from a systematic way to lead a discussion on their mathematical learning. Tying a visual aid, such as a speech bubble, can remind students of their task. 

3. Implement a Tool as Evidence of their Learning 

As students complete the number puzzles with a partner or small group, it is easy to end the activity there. If you are busy engaging with other students, perhaps in a guided math model, you may never get the chance to check in with the students and see if they completed the puzzles. Let’s face it! It happens! Having a paper-pencil or whiteboard-marker routine students complete after they finish the puzzles allow you to track your their learning. You will get bonus points for progress monitoring!

Recording Sheets for Math Centers
Students need to record their learning as evidence of their work during center time. For sequencing puzzles, students may write the numbers in the order they appear on a sheet of paper. This is also an extra dose of practice writing their numerals! (This is a permanent work sample.) For representing number puzzles, students may write or draw ways to represent a particular number on a whiteboard. (This is a temporary work sample. The whiteboard can be left in a particular spot or shown in the air to the teacher before clean-up time for a quick check.)

Number puzzles used for math centers are abundant. Whether you purchase them at your dollar store, download them from the internet, or create a DIY puzzle out of popsicle sticks...you want students to take responsibility for their learning and improve their academic performance. In an age where every student, and, sadly their test score, counts...we as educators must maximize every learning opportunity by holding students accountable. I hope this post inspired you to implement accountability routines in your classroom, and if you want to use my set of number puzzles you can find them in my TpT store! 

Have you used number puzzles in your classroom? 
How do you hold students accountable? 

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