Thursday, June 27, 2024

Fact Family Fun: Discovering the Magic of Numbers!

Call me crazy but I'm already thinking of my personal math goal with my First Graders come September: Fully comprehending Fact Families and the relationships of the numbers. I'm hoping 3/4 of my kids to be able to see a subtraction problem with a missing number and solve mentally.  Example: ___-6=5. I want them to be like, "It's 11 of course!" Or 11-____= 5 and them to shout out, "6!" because they understand the relationship between addition/subtraction.  A teacher can dream, right?

For new teachers: A fact family refers to a set of related addition and subtraction facts (multiplication and division for older grades) using the same three numbers. For example, for the numbers 3, 4, and 7, the fact family consists of the following equations:

  • 3 + 4 = 7
  • 4 + 3 = 7
  • 7 - 3 = 4
  • 7 - 4 = 3

These four equations form a fact family because they involve the same three numbers and demonstrate both addition and subtraction relationships between them. My kids get related facts for addition but when it comes to subtraction and seeing the whole relationship between addition and subtraction, they fall short.  NOTE: Some kids struggle throughout the year remembering to start subtraction equations with the highest number.  My goal is to change that, too! 

Actually, I fall short.  I need to spend more time on Fact Families so the students can solve problems mentally.  It's when they see an equation with an unknown number, in a subtraction problem, that many freeze.  ( ___ - 2=7)  If they truly understood fact families, they'd be able to get the answer- 9- immediately.  So, that's my goal!  (Solving for an unknown number happens to be on every test now, too hence the realization the goal needed.)

How Fact Families Help Students:

  1. Understanding Relationships: Fact families help students understand how addition and subtraction are related. They see that addition and subtraction are inverse operations, and they can derive one fact from another.

  2. Building Fluency: By practicing fact families, students can improve their speed and accuracy in both addition and subtraction. They learn that knowing one fact (e.g., 3 + 4 = 7) helps them quickly determine related facts (4 + 3 = 7, 7 - 3 = 4, 7 - 4 = 3).

  3. Mental Math Skills: Fact families encourage mental math strategies. For instance, if a student knows 3 + 4 = 7, they can use this fact to mentally solve 7 - 4 = 3 without needing to count or use manipulatives.

Teaching Fact Families:

Here are some effective ways to teach fact families to students:

  1. Concrete Manipulatives: Start with physical objects like counters or blocks. For the fact family 3, 4, and 7, physically combine and separate objects to show how the numbers relate through addition and subtraction.

  2. Visual Representation: Use diagrams or drawings to represent fact families. Draw circles or squares to represent each number and use arrows to show addition and subtraction relationships between them. And as a visual reminder, download this FREE Fact Family Poster I found on TPT from Gluesticks and Crayons. Isn't it adorable?

  3. Number Bonds: Introduce number bonds to show how numbers can be broken down and combined. For example, show how 7 can be split into 3 and 4, and vice versa.

  4. Practice Worksheets: Provide worksheets where students fill in the missing numbers in fact families. Start with guided practice and then move to independent practice as they become more confident.

  5. Games and Activities: Use games like "Fact Family Triangles" where students match related addition and subtraction facts. Create fact family puzzles or use online interactive tools for practice. Here's a free center I found on TPT from Sparkling in First:  Fall Fun Fact Families Freebie  

  6. Verbal Practice: Encourage students to verbally explain how addition and subtraction facts are related within a fact family. This helps reinforce understanding and language development in math. This is a must! Sneak the conversations in throughout the day: during Morning Meeting, Warm Ups, in line, etc. 

  7. Daily Review: Incorporate fact family practice into daily math routines to ensure continuous reinforcement. My goal: to revisit throughout the year! I want the skills fresh in their minds. We are always adding and subtracting so it makes sense that Fact Families need to be a part of the daily conversation.  (I have fallen short here!)  You may be interested in my packet here:

By teaching fact families effectively, you help students develop a deeper understanding of number relationships and build foundational skills that support more complex mathematical concepts in the future.

Monday, June 24, 2024

Unlock the Power of Shapes with Pattern Blocks

Good news: My friend's daughter just got her first teaching job. She'll be a First Grade teacher in just 3 weeks.

Bad news: All her student teaching experience was in Grades 3-5.

Her first question to me: What do I have all the kids do upon arrival when I'm trying to help kids unpack, calm kids down, etc.?


Pattern Block Fun

They are perfect for arrival time because they keep little hands busy while I'm trying to get everyone settled. She knew nothing about them so I thought maybe I'd do a post on them in case someone out there is moving down a few grades and needs the lowdown.

What are Pattern Blocks?

Pattern blocks are a valuable tool for fostering mathematical understanding and spatial reasoning skills in young learners through hands-on, interactive activities in the classroom.

Pattern blocks consist of six different shapes:

  1. Green Triangle
  2. Blue Large Rhombus 
  3. Red Trapezoid
  4. Yellow Hexagon
  5. Orange Square
  6. Tan Smaller Rhombus
Pattern Blocks Shapes

These shapes are typically made of plastic or wood and are designed to fit together in specific ways. However, I have foam ones, too. The foam blocks come in "thin" and "thick" pieces which the kids find fascinating. But if I could only get one type, I'd get the plastic ones for durability and price.

How to Use Pattern Blocks in the Classroom:

Pattern blocks can be used in a variety of activities and lessons to support learning across the curriculum.

  1. Exploring Shapes and Attributes:

    • Begin by allowing students to explore the shapes freely. Make pictures and designs. A perfect first day morning activity! Laster on, you can discuss the attributes of each shape (number of sides, angles, etc.).
    • Sort the blocks based on attributes like color, number of sides, or angles.

2. Pattern Recognition:
    • Introduce students to creating and extending patterns using the blocks. Patterns can be based on shape, color, or both.
    • For example, create an AB pattern (triangle, hexagon, triangle, hexagon) and ask students to continue it. Then move on to more intricate patterns. 

3. Geometry and Spatial Reasoning:

  • Use pattern blocks to teach concepts like symmetry, congruence, and transformations (rotation, reflection).
  • Have students create symmetrical designs using the blocks, or explore how shapes fit together to cover a given area.

4. Fractions:

    • Introduce fractions visually using pattern blocks. For example, show that two small triangles fit into one large triangle, illustrating 1/2.
    • Explore equivalent fractions by combining different shapes to make whole shapes.

5. Problem Solving and Critical Thinking:

  • Pose challenges where students need to figure out how many different ways they can combine blocks to fill a shape or a given space. A hexagon is a great shape to start with.
  • Encourage students to explain their reasoning and strategies for solving problems involving pattern blocks.

6. Integration with Other Subjects:

  • Use pattern blocks in art activities to create geometric designs.
  • Incorporate them into literacy by having students create stories or describe scenes using the blocks.
  • I see some TPT Sellers have products that use pattern blocks to make sight words, letters of the day, etc.  Endless possibilities!

Benefits of Using Pattern Blocks:

  • Hands-on Learning: Manipulating physical objects helps reinforce abstract concepts.
  • Visual and Spatial Understanding: Enhances understanding of shapes, geometry, and spatial relationships.
  • High Engagement: Students are often motivated by the colorful and tactile nature of pattern blocks. My students are always excited to see the pattern blocks and get to exploring them.
  • Differentiation: Activities can be easily adapted to challenge different levels of learners.

I added some Pattern Block Picture Puzzles to my store. All on sale for just $2 each through the end of the month. A great time to grab them!  Showing the bundle here which I'm going to put on sale for $7 until June 30th too.  A great deal!