Categorized under: Helpful Hints

Yee Haw! Rounding is Fun!

Get your cowboy hats and boots on and HAVE some FUN with rounding numbers!

Round ’em Up! Poem

This poem is a great source to use to help your students learn the rules and steps of rounding numbers. Make it fun and throw some “Yee Haws!” and hand motions in there to catch their attention. Students will have a blast learning how to round numbers.

Here is a game you can play to help students practice rounding numbers:

Materials: white boards, dry-erase markers, decks of cards (minus the Kings, Queens, and Jacks)


      1. Students are divided into groups of 3 or 4.  Each student is given a white board and dry-erase marker. Each group is given a deck of cards.

      2. One student is to draw a given number of cards from the deck. (Teacher is to give the number of cards to draw, depending on the number of place values you are working with.)

      3. The student drawing then organizes the cards to create a number.

                    *Variation: Teacher may direct students to create the least/greatest number or a random number with the cards.

       4. Once the number is created, all students write the number on their white boards.

   Review skills: “Tell your ‘partner’ what number you have just written.” (reviewing word form and standard form of numbers)

 “How many periods are in the number?”

 “What is the expanded form of the number?”

5. The teacher will then state the place value the number should be rounded to. (eg. “hundreds place” or “ten-thousands place”)

6. Students practice rounding numbers by following the steps given in the poem. They can state the poem out loud or refer to it for help.

7. Once students have rounded the number, they can show their work to their group and compare their work with their partners to check if they have the right answer. (Teachers will want to walk around and monitor student work to ensure they are rounding accurately.)

8. Students can continue to play, repeating steps 2-7 until they have mastered the concept of rounding numbers.

    *With each round of the game, the teacher may want to increase the number of cards pulled from the deck to increase the number of place values and present a more challenging number for students to round.

Teachers have fun and keep your students engaged by throwing in some “Ya-hoos!” and Yee-haws!” The students will surely not forget the steps to rounding, when they get to corral up some fun in math.

          The red words are words you need to be familiar with before teaching this lesson. You can find these words and other resources related to this entry in the Resources page.

Categorized under: SUMS

“Keeping It Simple”: Games

Here are some games that I have used in the classroom to reinforce or provide practice of skills taught in math. These games only require a deck of playing cards or you can create a deck of digit cards (0-12) for your students to use. The following games cover skills like multiplication, division, addition, rounding, and place value. These game are great for centers or can be used for remediation. I hope you and your students enjoy them!

Games : Multiplication War, Division Tumble, Addition Tango, Round and Round, Place Value It

Categorized under: SUMS

Daily Data Practice

Sanderson 06Hernando county has partnered with the North East Florida Educational Consortium (NEFEC) and adopted the Florida SUMS (Students Understanding Math and Science) program. The goal of NEFEC and SUMS is to provide teachers with the strategies and resources for implementing inquiry-based instruction of mathematics. One of the key concepts in the SUMS program is the collecting and recording of data. In order to ensure teachers and students have the opportunity to work with data, SUMS has created the idea of Daily Data.

Daily Data is the idea of setting aside time (10 – 15 min.) each day to have students participate in collecting, analyzing, interpreting, and representing data that is meaningful to the student (Principals and Standards for School of Mathematics).The goals of daily data is to provide math practice through problem solving, reinforce mathematical vocabulary, and provide opportunities for students to communicate mathematically –  speaking, listening, and writing. 

“Organizing data into categories should begin with informal sorting experiences, such as helping to put away groceries…young children should continue activities that focus on attributes of objects and data so that by the second grade, they can sort and classify simultaneously, using more than one attribute.” (NCTM)

 In working with data, students should have the opportunity to work with two different types of data, categorical and numerical.  Categorical data is focused on gathering information (i.e. favorite food, animal, flavor of  ice cream, etc.). Numerical data is focused on gathering numbers (i.e. how many books, pieces of candy, how tall are you, how old are you, etc.)

Creating a bank of different questions may help in planning what type of data you want to collect.

Check these out!

There is no right or wrong way to implement this strategy, but SUMS has come up with a  way to help keep the task minimal and doable for daily practice.

Here is Daily Data at a week’s glance:

Monday – A question is presented to the students. Students respond on a class chart (T-chart, Venn Diagram{single, double, triple}, balance {yes/no questions}, glyphs, pictograph, etc.) and discuss the outcomes.

 Lirette 02

Tuesday – Students are to take the information collected and represent it using a different graphic organizer (bar graph, tally table, pie chart, line plot, etc.)

Wednesday – “3-2-1” Students write about the data collected in the format of 3 observations, 2 inferences, and 1 changed variable.  Observations include factual information: “There are 5 boys who like chocolate ice cream and 10 girls that like vanilla.” Student may choose to write their observations in sentence form or in a paragraph. Inferences (just like in Reading) include information that goes beyond what is “right there”. Students are to take the information collected and form a judgement or reason why they think the data appears the way is does (eg. “Sally placed her name outside of the Venn Diagram, because she may not like ice cream or she may like a different flavor not given.”) A changed variable means, if something were to change in the data (i.e. another students were to vote, one student were absent, a third flavor were added, etc.), how would that affect the outcome?

Thursday: Students then use the data to make  number sentences or a story problem. (eg. 10 + 3 + 5 + 1 = 19; “19 students selected their favorite ice cream flavor. 10 students liked vanilla, and 5 liked chocolate. How many students are left?”)

Friday: Students will represent the data in a different way, using a different type of graphic organizer than was used on Tuesday (i.e. bar graph, line graph, pictograph, tally chart, etc.)

Daily Data is a great way to implement the Math journal as well. Students should keep track of the information collected and use past data collections for reference.

Daily Data Math Journal Formats:

3-5 Daily Data Journal Entry Format

K-2 DailyData Journal Entry Format 

For more information about Daily Data, refer to the Resources page.

Categorized under: SUMS

Implementing Journals in Math

Journaling is a great way for teachers to enhance and support student learning. It provides the student and the teacher with an open line of communication to keep the learning process flowing.  Journaling helps students clarify their thinking and allows students to increase their problem-solving ability.

Teachers need to provide prompts or activities that ensure a high degree of success. This will minimize the frustration level of students and can help the student to understand the connection between mathematics and other disciplines of learning. As you read your students’ journals, be sure to focus on their reasoning and communication, rather than the right or wrong. Students may have answered a question incorrectly, but the reasoning of how they got to their answer is more important. They may have just made a minor mistake, which could be addressed later. Be sure to respond to the student, beyond the usual “good job” or “excellent work.” Point out what was great about the students’ reasoning process or strategy they chose to use to solve the problem (eg. “Johnny, I really liked how you used a different strategy than most to solve your problem! Do you think you would be willing to share with the class?”). This will help create an open and comfortable means of communication between you and your students. The benefit may also be a confident math learner!

There are several different ways that teachers can use journals.

 Reflection Journaling: Students reflect on what was learned in math class. Teachers provide higher-order thinking questions for students to answer about the lesson. Questions like “How would you solve? What strategy would you use and why? How do you know that is the answer to the problem? What steps did you take in order to solve?” Summarizing is another way one can reflect on a mathematical concept.

Vocabulary Journals: Students can create a reference books of math terminology, similar to a dictionary. Create space for each letter of the alphabet, say about 3 pages or more. As a term is entered or written in, be sure to include the definition, a diagram, illustration, or sample problem. This will help the student to see the use of the word and create memory triggers for later use.

Note-Taking Journals: Students can keep track of notes taken in class. This is a working journal that is added to daily. In this journal students can incorporate vocabulary, sample problems, and different strategies one can use to solve. Students may also choose to include their independent practice problems. This journal can be used to keep track of any important information relayed to the students during the math lesson.

Practice Journals: Students can keep track of sample problems and strategies used to solved various types of problems.

Journals are also a great tool to teach students organizational skills.

  • A Table of Contents should be included to keep a reference of where to find information.
  • An Index at the end of the journal can be used as a reference for students as well.
  • Good handwriting should be practiced in journaling. This will ensure that students can use their journal as a reference. Good handwriting will also promote pride in ones’ work.
  • Keeping all information for math within one place, can help keep a student from losing assignments, notes, or other important information.

Looking for quick ideas for implementing journals?

Here is a list of 101 Math Journal Prompts.

For primary (K-2 grade) math journaling ideas, check out this website.

For purchasing journal prompts for use in math, check out this website.

For more information on math journals, see the resource page.

If you have any questions or additional information on the use of journals in math, please feel free to leave a comment below.  

Categorized under: SUMS

Key Words for Solving Story Problems

Solving word problems is one of the most difficult concepts students face in mathematics. Many times students get lost in all of the jargon (words). We need to give them tools to tackle word problems effectively. Some great strategies that I have learned throughout my experience are:

  • Tell students to take a step-by-step approach. Using acronyms or acrostic poems help students remember what steps to follow.

Red Caterpillars Sleep in Cocoons” is one of my favorites. Each beginning letter represents a step to take when tackling the problem.

R – read and reread the problem

C – circle important information (see highlighting below)

S – solve, using the appropriate operation

C – check your work using the inverse operation.

  • Equip students with the knowledge of the “key words” used to indicate which operation to use in solving.
    • This can be done through several different methods:
      • Create a poster in class of each operation and record key words and phrases as you come across them in your instruction. Check out this list!
      • Have students create a graphic organizer of all of the words in their math journal or notebook.
      • Play vocabulary games with students using key words.
        • Flash cards
        • Memory ( words  to match the symbols)
        • Crossword puzzles
        • Vocabulary Webs
        • Word Scavenger Hunts
  • Highlighting is another great strategy to teach your students. You may want to start with a highlighter so students see the words better, then teach them to use their pencil. Encourage students to mark on their assessments as well.
  • Names in word problems can be a real hassle for students. We need to share with them with the same strategies we use in reading: “Put your own name in the problem.” or “Just say the first letter of the name.”

Here is just a few ways to help your students tackle word problems with ease. If you have  any further suggestions, please make sure to leave a comment below.

Math Intervention

The C-R-A Model (Concrete, Representational, Abstract) is a research based math intervention. It has been proven to strengthen students’ conceptual knowledge of mathematics. The CRA Model is a cyclical way of teaching math. The first step is using concrete materials and hands-on activities to introduce students to a concept. There is no mathematical symbols or notations during this phase. The second step is transferring the knowledge from concrete to representational through the use of representations. The students will need to see or create several representations of the concept being taught through drawings, virtual manipulatives, graphs, etc. Once students have had multiple opportunities to practice transference of knowledge from concrete to representational you can move to step three. Step three is the abstract method of teaching. This is where mathematical vocabulary, symbols, and numbers are used to teach the concept. The abstract level of thinking is extremely difficult for some students, we must make sure they have a strong foundation of representation before moving into the abstract way of teaching.

CAUTION: Many teachers skip over the representational part of instruction, which is where many of our students lose the connection from concrete/hands-on activities to the abstract or using numbers and symbols to help solve problems.

Click here to download

Additional Resources:

CRA Model Article The Access Center for Improving Outcomes for All Students K-8

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About Me

Tina Cordova has been a classroom teacher since 2002; where she developed a love for all subjects especially mathematics.  She currently serves as a Math Coach at Pine Grove Elementary in Hernando County, FL working with the SUMS Math Program.