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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Beans, Beans, More Beans and Place Value

I know letting kids discover math through hands-on,  meaningful, inquiry-based activities is the goal. But can I just say that for the past three days I have been wavering on whether I should reconsider that goal? I have had some serious second thoughts on how to introduce place value. I don't know why but this year was just a bit harder than most. Same project, but different students, lack of sunshine? Whatever the case, on day one I thought tomorrow will be easy. On day two, I thought....oh, no, what was I thinking? Day three...I debated whether they might be getting it....maybe, maybe not. Day four....envision a happy dance, bundles of ten everywhere and students with proud smiles on their faces.

So what are we doing here? Simple, but oh so meaningful for young mathematicians who are just being introduced to the concept of place value. Grab a few pounds of beans, portion cups, place value mats and you are ready to go.
See the clothespin at the top? It helps keep their record sheets from sliding down, also when we clean up, we roll them up and use the clothespin to hold them together. The numbers on each pin are student numbers, so we know which record sheets belongs to whom.

We never, ever dump the hundreds cups from day to day. But we do dump the tens.

Look below his desk. His record sheets are long now. He is at 249 here.  We use scotch tape to add on record sheets.
Students put one bean on, write down what they have, then repeat.  The key here is that they must look at what they have. We spend a lot of time repeating, "Put a bean on, write it down" and "What do you do when you get a ten? BUNDLE!" This activity is really about learning to see that 53 is  having 5 tens and 3 ones. On day 1 we go up to 12 or 15 together, then I let them take off on their own. I case the room, monitoring that their record sheets match the beans on their mats. If not, we start over. When day 2 rolls around, everyone has to read their record sheet, build back up to the number shown and after I check their building, they start back up. The goal is for everyone to get to at least 120. Today the largest number was 483 when my last student hit 120. Directions and record sheets are included in my free download from TpT. Click below to go to my store. 

The best part of today's math was when we started looking for patterns in the numbers. After discovering the pattern of 0-9 in the ones and just as we started to talk about the pattern shown in the tens, one of my young mathematicians yelled out, "There must be one hundred zeros, then one hundred ones, and one hundred twos in the hundreds." Even young mathematicians can begin to notice difficult number patterns. Now if we can only get all those beans cleaned up off the floor.


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