100+100 = No Big Deal

It happened.  We’ve started formally working with the “pluses”.  Addition, adding, sums, whatever you want to call it – my first graders are just eating it right up.

After their birthdays, their prowess with pluses is often one of the first things they want to share with me.  Many learn the skill at home prior to coming to school and wear it as a badge of honour.  No more baby counting. This is big kid stuff.

Although we’ve been discussing the concepts for a while now, whenever I actually start using the terms and throwing out equations, it’s always met with aggressive head nodding and answer-call-outing because kids are just dying to show off what they know.  I’m not sure why this is the case. They don’t behave like this when I introduce other concepts with which they may already be familiar.  Talking about the needs of plants for example, just doesn’t bring out the same fervour.

While my kids are raring to go, my first instinct is to put on the brakes.  That is, it’s one thing to spout off answers to equations, it’s quite entirely another to actually know that they really mean.  A child may know that 100+100=200 but have no concept of the actual number. Kids mix up 18 and 80 all the time.  And when asked what’s more, 48 or 67 – kids are often stumped.  Number sense is a critical building block which needs to be in place before tackling what’s typically viewed as “real math”.

For starters, we play a lot with these Power of Ten cards.  They visually represent the value of a number, giving kids a better understanding of concepts like:  what is more, what is less, what happens when you add or take away one, what happens when you add or take away ten. These visual depictions give weight to numbers, adding some dimension so that we can see just what the number 54 (5 tens and 4 ones) looks like.  Once this knowledge base is in place, then formal addition can mean more than just rote memorization.

For the most part my students seem to be right on track with their numeracy skills so for me, the answer is simple.  Power of Ten cards = A definite plus.

  1. Laurie says:

    I have just become hooked on Power of Ten cards! Just spent the last 30 minutes alternating between drawing a picture with my 4.5-yr-old and downloading free things from the Power of Ten web site and ordering the cards! Thanks? ;o)

  2. rebecca says:

    i just discovered your sweet little blog and am LOVING it (esp as a former first grade teacher). this post really takes me back!!! first grade is such a wonderful year- so much unfolding and developing. thanks for sharing!

  3. Sarah Garb says:

    When I’ve taught second grade, the kids feel the exact same way about multiplication. And let me tell you–they really think they are hot stuff when we start learning about multiplication later in the year. Woah. Enjoy the excitement!

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