Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Sean Inspired {Place Value}

A few months ago I wrote a post about a student I worked with, Becky. I shared a strategy I used to help her develop place value awareness and build confidence in using larger numbers. Today I'd like to talk about another student, Sean. I've been working with Sean for a little over a year now, and it's been an amazing journey, for both of us!

When Sean and I started, he was a 4th grade special needs student (I won't get into the specifics) who had ZERO numeracy skills. He couldn't add simple numbers, had no concept of what multiplication was, no place value awareness...You get the picture. I had never encountered such a deficiency, so I almost didn't take the job. Almost.

After playing some games and breaking the ice I realized this kid had serious potential, but no one had ever really taken the time to help him, so we started our journey. One small step at a time. It began with counting and and connecting the number symbols to the amounts they represent. This may seem redundant for an 11 year old, but it was necessary. I used dots to help him see the value for each number, and gave him practice to count the dots on each number and say its name 5 minutes every day. Within a few sessions he was ready to start working with these numbers.


I LOVE Uno cards for math practice with kids, because they see that deck, they are familiar with it, it puts them at ease, because they know they are about to play a game, not work on "school stuff". As Sean was building his ability to represent amounts with numbers, I started bringing out the Uno deck. Here are a couple of the ways we played. (I take all of the "special" cards out of the deck before playing all of the games)



1. Count On

    With only the number 0-9, we flip a card over and the student tells you the next number. After a few sessions, I add to the game, by having them tell me the next two numbers, or three. That helps us bridge into skip counting where I have the student tell me two numbers more or three numbers more.

   After a lot of practice counting on, we turn it around and count back. Tell me the number before, one less, two less, three less. This is usually a greater challenge, but its well worth it in the long run!

  Count On can the be adapted to larger numbers by playing two cards at once; and then counting on from the 2-digit number. The skip counting can build from there by counting on by tens.

I couldn't find a writing program to couple with this game, and I always make sure to incorporate as many senses as possible for my students. So I designed Blast Off Mental Math. I had many other younger students who were using Rocket Math in their schools, so I used the idea behind it, introducing a new set of numbers, a small group at a time. 

2. Place Value Battle

    I really can't take credit for this, but I don't remember where I saw it, probably on Pinterest ;) You start with separating the deck into two piles, one for each player (this can be a multiplayer game, just make more piles). Each player turns over one card, they have to decide whether its value will be their tens place or ones place. (We had to use my Place Value Cards for this in the beginning) Each player now turns over a second card, placing it in the other spot. Whoever has the larger number wins!

   After some time playing with three place value positions, you can use three places, even four. The key is that once a player chooses the position for his card, he CANNOT move it! If your student isn't ready for Place Value Battle, you can just use one card and compare values. This is EXACTLY the same thing we all played growing up, only we likely called it War.

   I've noticed that some kids are a little too competitive for this game, or they get really bummed out if they aren't winning. In that case I don't use the collection strategy, I have the student Identify the larger number, if they are correct I place all of the cards in one pile, if they are incorrect I place them in another pile. At the end of the game, if the correct pile is larger I tell them they win, if the incorrect pile is larger I say, we have some work to do, and we focus some time on place value concepts.

There are a lot more games I could list, but I'll save those for specific content posts. What about you? Do you have a game you play with UNO cards, or similar playing cards (Skip-Bo works well to)? Share your game in the comments below!

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