Math Workshop Series: Math with Someone

Jun 23, 2017

After kids understand how to do Math with a Teacher and Math by Myself, Math with Someone is the next thing we introduce as we set up the Math Workshop. 

math with someoneWhile you are introducing Math Workshop, the students will be divided evenly between the two stations, but during week three, we start to add in this new station where students will be working with someone. Math with Someone usually takes a bit longer to introduce simply because there are so many moving parts and making sure that they’re staying on target with their games.

Typically, Math with Someone will be games, but students could certainly be doing math projects or other things together during this rotation. The games they will play in Math with Someone should be application games that integrate the 8 Standards for Mathematical Practices and help children to apply some of the concepts that you’re teaching within that unit of study. Within your unit of study or module, you’ll want to pick 3-5 games to introduce and reinforce your objectives.

The hardest part of setting up Math with Someone  is choosing the games. You want to make sure you’re choosing quality games, not quantity games. That doesn’t mean you can’t go to Pinterest or Teachers Pay Teachers and find those cute games, but make sure that they are cute AND quality before you print them out.

Here are Shannon’s 5 golden rules for choosing a quality math game (click the image on the right for a larger infographic):

  • Choosing Quality Math GamesThe game should include at least seven of the Eight Mathematical Practices.  What are the Eight Mathematical Practices? Check out this free resource, RESA Elementary Practice Placemat.
  • The game should provide for DI, or differentiated instruction. This is a MUST!  If the game has only one level and can’t be adjusted up or down, it’s not worth it!  You need to be able to meet the needs of ALL students! If you’re playing multiplication BUMP, you might have the gameboard with 1s, 3s, 5s, and 10s on one side, but then if you flip it over, it could be 3s, 6s, 9s, and 11s. You can then get multiple uses out of one game board.
  • The game should be low prep.  If it has too many pieces, or is overly ‘cutesy,” it’s probably not worth it. You also want to avoid holiday-themed games because you won’t be able to use that cute shamrock BUMP game in April.  You’ll have to make a new one with umbrellas or something and you don’t have time for that! Game boards should be simple and shouldn’t have a lot of special pieces. Deck O’ Dots are great because you can play lots of different games with them. Games that involve simple math manipulatives like two-sided counters and dice make it easy for students get what they need to play out of the Math Salad Bar.
  • The game should have accountability.  Ask yourself how your students will be accountable for the game that they are playing.  Are they turning in something while you are working with the guided math group so you know that they are actually playing the game during math workshop?
  • The game should have longevity.  Games should be available for students to play for at least 2-3 weeks.  Putting the game away too quickly will prevent students from getting the skills and practice intended.

If your math series doesn’t come with application games, we recommend using this list as you’re reviewing and selecting games to use in your classroom to make sure the game you’re getting isn’t just cute and fluffly.

Once you select a game, you have to teach it to students! Some classrooms will introduce new games on Fridays. They’ll teach the students how to play the game and everyone will play together using the document camera to discuss how different students got their answers. This a great way to introduce games because you can really have great discussion about rules and expectations, particularly for behavior, while students are playing. For example, your procedures might look like this: one student finds the spot where the pair will play the game, while one student goes to the Math Salad Bar to get the manipulatives they’ll need. We have a rule that no item from the Math Salad Bar can travel in the room for games unless it’s inside one of the salad bowls. Let’s say a game requires 10 red clear counters and 10 blue clear counters and a set of dice. Students should be using a bowl from the top of the Salad Bar to bring that to the table. A lot of demonstrating with the Math Salad bar has to happen before students will be proficient and independent in this area.

sleeve protector

You want to keep the games very simple. At the beginning, you might just copy a game board on regular black and white paper that kids can use at their discretion. Sometimes students can even make their game board themselves by drawing it on paper or a dry erase board. But then, as they become comfortable with the game, you can have three nice game boards, printed on cardstock (maybe even in color!), that live in the Math Salad Bar. We don’t recommend laminating these nice game boards because, let’s be honest, teachers have spent entirely too many hours cutting out laminated things. Instead, put the game boards in a clear sleeve (these can be purchased with the Math Salad Bar in sets of 50) or sheet protector so the game boards are protected and reusable.

You don’t need 15 game boards for a class of 30 students. Since the boards will be reused, you only need three game boards that look nice. That’s six kids in a station, playing with a partner. At the most, you’ll probably have 10 kids in a group rotating around your classroom if you only have three rotations, so you might need up to five game boards. But no more!

In upper grades, teachers might store game boards in a binder on the Math Salad Bar that kids will open and flip through to find the board they need for a particular game. Other teachers have a drawer in the Salad Bar labelled Game Boards. Over time, you will build up your collection of game boards that can then be put in a binder with your unit resources so you’ll have the games ready for next time!

We like to offer choice in Math with Someone. At the beginning you might just say that everyone is playing the same game until they learn the strategies and how to go about using their tools correctly. I typically limit the choices for my students to three games in this rotation, especially if there are any behavior issues in your class. However, some teachers have offered as many as five or six choices. It’s up to you!

At the beginning of the rotation, students will have an activity card that gives them the necessary information to play whichever game they’ve chosen: how many players, materials required (maybe with pictures), and the name of the game so students can easily identify on the math board what they’ll be playing and match it up to the items they’ll need from the Math Salad Bar – the game board, the materials, etc. Remember, the goal of Math Workshop is for students to be as independent as possible, and having a clear activity card helps with that.

Accountability is one of the keys to Math with Someone. In Kinder, you probably won’t have as many quality games as you will quantity games because they are just learning how to play, to take turns the right way, so might want students to play more simple games like Deck ‘O Dots Train. In this game, which is really more of a sorting game, they play by themselves and there isn’t a winner or loser.

Kindergarten is the only exclusion, however. In all other grades, you want to make sure you have some form of accountability. While you’re sitting in the Math with a Teacher group, it can be hard to know if that group in Math with Someone is actually playing their game or just playing around. We institute these accountability sheets by second grade at the latest. These sheets should be pretty generic, not game specific. The teacher doesn’t have to grade all of them, but the student is required to complete the accountability sheet to say that he played that game and put the sheet in the “turn in” basket. Just something to know that students are doing what they’re supposed to be doing in this station and staying on target. Click here for a free download with sample accountability sheets.

A few examples:

  • They’re playing Deck ‘O Dot Duel (a war style game), and they’re doing a double flip. Students would use a Greater Than/Less Than sheet to record the turns as they’re playing. “I had 14, my partner had 17. My partner had more. How many more? 3 more.”
  • They’re playing BUMP, so they’ll use a Number Bond sheet. “I rolled a 7, so I decided to do 4 and 3 to put my counters on.” Seven would go in the number bond with two parts, 4 and 3.

deck o dots duel green deck 5Making your materials organized and accessible to students is crucial to the success of this station. They have about 15 minutes for their rounds, so within that time students have to get and put away their Math Salad Bar materials. If you have a Math Leader or a Salad Bar Keeper, that student might be in charge of making sure all the materials are present and accounted for and put away properly so we’re ready for the next group. 

K-5 Math Teaching Resources is one of the best places to go for games. They are already matched exactly to the math standards in each grade level and the game boards are really simple (not a lot of fluff). They’re to the point and focused on the skills that students need help with. You can also find some really great games in our store on our Math Strategy Games Download. These follow all 8 Math Practices and are ready to go into the classroom.  Right now, until June 28th, 2017, the download is 40% off!

math strategy game download

40% off!

We can go crazy on Pinterest and TPT and have cute games with lots of pieces that go with every holiday/season, but in the end, spending less money for a few quality games is more worthwhile and will be more beneficial to your students.

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