Introducing…The Math Mights!

Jul 19, 2017

Ever get confused by all the strategies out there for addition, subtraction, multiplication and division? What if there were a fun, friendly, character that you could associate with each strategy to help you keep them straight??

Math Mights Brand LogoIntroducing the Math Mights!

Strategic Intervention Solutions is thrilled to bring you a sneak peek of a new publication, due out during the Fall of 2017! 

We have been working with John Lucas, of Johnny ‘Toons (, to develop a series of posters that will use characters from Mathville, the Math Mights, to help students visualize addition, subtraction, multiplication and division strategies. We went through a few different drafts (including beach-themed animals that were a “life raft” for math strategies) before we settled on the current characters you see today, but Johnny is truly an amazing designer and he has helped so much to capture the characters that I’ve envisioned.

World ConceptThis idea was born out of a need to help our students solve problems in a variety of ways instead of just one, and to be able to communicate their reasoning. As we work with schools, we find that students tend to just know one traditional way of thinking or solving a problem, which is actually not attending to place value. At SIS4Teachers, we want to help schools get conversations started with teachers and help students develop a depth of understanding around problem solving. The whole theme of the Math Mights project is that, if we can help kids solve problems three ways plus the traditional way, we will see a huge growth in student achievement.  We have already seen this growth first hand in some of the schools that are a part of our Math Initiative as we have. Our goal is to have students who can not only line up the numbers according to place value to add 27 and 17 in a traditional way, but to also be able to solve that same problem (27+17) using partial sums, decomposing/composing, and compensation. When students have a depth of knowledge, their number sense becomes more solidified. A solid number sense is the foundation upon which students can practice higher order thinking skills that they can then use to accomplish 3 Acts Math Tasks and performance tasks. At SIS4Teachers, we want to polish students’ and teachers’ thinking when it comes to problem solving.

Meet the Characters!

For addition, we have a character called Abracus that looks like a magician. He can zap numbers! So, if we were doing 15 + 16, he could easily zap the 16 into 15, quickly add 15 and 15 to get 30, and then take the 1 that was zapped off and add it back in to get to 31.

D.C. stands for decomposing/composing. He has a hat and a big mallet and loves to break numbers apart and put them back together. If D.C. were to answer 15 + 16, he might decompose 16 into 5 and 11 and bond those two numbers together or compose them back together to make the answer a little bit easier to add.

Representing the traditional method of solving problems is the endearing T Pops, who has cute bunny slippers and glasses. There’s nothing wrong with doing it the way our parents did it, but we want to make sure our students are not just memorizing procedures but are really understanding and developing a strong number sense.

Springly will help us when we’re counting on an open number line. If we’re doing 62 – 36, she would start at 36 and spring really high on the number line to 40, and then 40 to 60 and 60 to 62 to get the answered.

There are a few other characters who have yet to be named that will represent other strategies, such as partial sums and compensation.

The concept is similar to the Beanie Baby strategies that early elementary teachers will remember, many of which are still used today, where the character serves as a visual prompt for a concrete strategy. For example, you might have Lips the Fish, which helps your lips get ready when you’re going to read.

We tried to create our character line to represent strategies that are universal, something that 1st through 5th grade students could relate to that would be associated with different operations to which they could apply the strategies. For example, D.C. (decomposing/composing) could be used to break apart numbers for addition, but he could also do the same for subtraction and multiplication. The idea of the poster is to help teachers remember the strategies we’re trying to use, but also to get kids to associate the characters so they can start to use names and mathematical vocabulary appropriately.

The Product

The finished product will be a flip chart. On one side, you’ll have junior addition strategies and that poster will be filled with the four ways to do addition – compensation, decomposing/composing, partial sums, and traditional. The examples on that poster will be with lower numbers. The other side of that poster flips around and will be more senior looking activities. We might decompose fractions or decimals, or show you how multiplication works with decimals.

To navigate the product, you’ll be able to find the tab that says displays your strategy and students can then see that character introduce the strategy and show a few examples. When they flip the page, they’ll learn how to do compensation. The product will also be cumulative, so at the bottom of each poster, you’ll see all the strategies you’ve learned so far. We are still working on the prototype, but we know it will be easy to flip and be durable for students!

I really feel like Math Mights is going to be instrumental for students, especially with the current emphasis on students explaining their thinking. With the ACT and SAT changing in the near future, and the Next Generation Assessment, almost 75% of the exams involve communication of thought process. If a student can say I decomposed/composed the number or used the strategy of compensation (and to have a character to relate it to), those students will be able to be successful.

Math is changing so much, and it can be very overwhelming. My hope is that these posters will be in classrooms across the US – not only in our Math Initiative schools, but can be used in any math classroom to help strategize.

The Product Timeline

We are still finalizing everything with prototypes and artwork, but we wanted to share with you a little of the birth of the characters…they start in pencil, then John adds in the color, and then he “vectors” them so all the parts of the character can move to complete their actions on the page!

John has been such a blessing for this project!  I found his card on one of those cork boards at Potbellies while having lunch with my son one day. I was struggling to find an artist that really understood what I was talking about in education and how I wanted to make the characters kid friendly with an educational purpose. He has worked on a few apps (including Zombie Fish Bits – free/id958693611?mt=8  – a math game that encourages creative thinking and problem solving) and book covers. John has the best creative mind for this project and he has been one of the first people I’ve found who really understands what I’m trying to do and how we can best service that with our products and services.

We’re going to launch the Addition Strategies collection of posters first, hopefully in September or late August in time for the start of the 2017-2018 school year. Included in the product there will be a parent companion to help introduce the characters to parents. We’re also hoping there will be a downloadable component of the characters with some simple independent work that kids can use to reinforce different strategies and some mini posters of the characters that the teachers can download with the products to give to students or hang around the room.

Since we are still working through prototypes, we cannot begin to take preorders at this time. However, if you’d like to know when Math Mights: Addition Strategies can be yours, make sure you’re signed up to receive the latest blog posts in your email box and you’ll be the first to know!

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