Kindergarten Math — Money and Target Addition

We worked with money a little in kindergarten math, playing a game with coins and piggy banks during class. The kids had a homework assignment that involved drawing (or cutting and pasting) coins to show different amounts of money.  Though I sent home a page of coin pictures, I told the kids that they did not need to cut out the pictures if they didn’t want to.  It was fine to draw pictures of coins and use either a number to show the amount (i.e., 5 for a nickel) or a letter (N for a nickel).

Last week in class, we played a game called Target Addition.  The game uses a five-row, five-column board where the top row is all 5’s, the next row is all 4’s, then 3’s, 2’s and 1’s.  Before beginning play, each pair chosses a target between 25 and 55.  Players then take turns placing a marker on one of the numbers on the board.  Each time a player places his or her marker, s/he announces the total of the covered numbers.  For example if the first player covered a 4, the second a 3, and then the first a 2, the sum would be 4 + 3 + 2 = 9.  The first player to reach the target number exactly wins.  If a player goes over the target number, s/he is out.

This game is great to strengthen mental math skills.  The kids are really good at addition, but working on accuracy and speed is always helpful.  Keeping track of the total in Target Addition can be a challenge, but since the board is always in front of you, it’s no problem to start from zero and add up all of the covered numbers, if necessary.  The game also encourages the kids to think a few steps ahead.  Once you near your target, you need to start thinking about what your opponent will do if you cover a certain number, and how you can avoid setting your opponent up to win.

This week in kindergarten math, we’ll be working on some beginning logic problems using grid puzzles.  This is often frustrating for the students as they become familiar with how to use the grids.  We will practice in class, so don’t let them tell you that they’ve never seen anything like this before.  Keep at it!  I’ll only be sending home two puzzles, so it shouldn’t be too time consuming.

Second Grade Strategic Thinking — Othello and Gobblet

Last week in second grade strategic thinking, we played Othello (also sometimes known as Reversi).

Othello is a game played with colored chips.  One player uses the white chips and one player uses the black chips.  To make a move, you need to surround at least one of your opponent’s chips with two of your own.  The chip(s) you have surrounded then turn to your color.

When playing Othello, the corners are crucial because they cannot be flipped to another color.  So the best strategy is to go for the corners as quickly as possible.  As we said in class, S/HE WHO CONTROLS THE CORNERS, CONTROLS THE GAME.

We had quite a few amazing Othello players.  Domanic Zacharias-Martin was particularly amazing at the game.

You can play Othello online here.  I definitely don’t do that in my free time.  There’s also an Othello app.  You can find it here.

This week, we played Gobblet.

The kids immediately compared Gobblet to Tic-Tac-Toe.  They definitely have similarities.  Gobblet is played as follows:

  • The object of the game is to get four in a row of your color.
  • Each player starts with 12 pieces: three large, three medium-large, three medium-small, and three small.
  • Each player’s pieces are initially arranged into three stacks off the board, and only visible pieces can be moved onto the board. The initial stacks prevent playing a smaller piece before a corresponding larger piece.
  • When a piece is moved from off-board onto the board, it must be moved to either (1) an empty space, or (2) a space to gobble an opponent’s piece that is part of three in a row (for the opponent). In other words, a new piece can gobble only an opponent’s piece, and only to prevent an immediate win on the opponent’s next turn. These restrictions do not apply when a piece that is already on the board is moved.

That’s it!  Simple to learn, challenging to master.  The kids had a great time challenging their classmates and gobbling their pieces.  Before we started, we discussed two primary strategies:

  1. Gobble a smaller piece if you can (unless, of course, it will cause you to lose)
  2. Look for 3-by-3’s, where you can place a piece to have two three-in-a-rows together.

The kids did a great job of using the strategies.  We had some tense games!  Paige Kessman and Samuel Parente both made it to the end of class undefeated, and then played a showdown game.  All of the other students were crowded around their table; some even stayed late and missed the beginning of lunch to watch the final tense moments.  In the end, Paige was victorious!  Similarly, Quinn Drennan made it to the end of his group’s class period without a single loss.  Congratulations, Paige and Quinn!  Way to gobble!

There is, of course, a Gogglet app.  You can find it here.

Happy playing!

First Grade Reading — Analyzing Commericals and Designing Our Own Print Ads

Mea culpa, first grade parents!  When your children came in to class this week, boy did they have a bone to pick with me!

“Mrs. Green, I didn’t have time to eat my dinner because I had to do my homework for you.”

“Mrs. Green, that homework took me TWO HOURS!”

“Mrs. Green, it was soooooooooo much writing!!”

And here I thought I was so much fun because I was asking the kids to watch TV for homework.  Three commercials, that’s like 90 seconds, right?  But when each commercial had several bubbles on the graphic organizer and each bubble was supposed to be filled out with complete setences… well, it didn’t work out so well for many of you.  I’m so sorry!  Please know I didn’t plan for your kiddos to spend hours slaving away over their commercial analysis.

I love what they discovered, so I plan to have future classes complete a similar assignment, just without the complete sentences part and with only two commercials.  That would help, right?  Or am I (still) delusional?

We prepared for that homework by watching a Prezi presentation about commercials.  We tried to identify the target audience for each ad and to decide which techniques were being used.  Sometimes identifying the target audience isn’t so easy.  For example, we watched this commercial where the tiny Darth Vader tries to use the force and eventually seems to be successful on his dad’s Volkswagen.  At first, the kids argued that the commercial is aimed at kids.  They quickly came to the conclusion, though, that kids don’t buy cars.  Hmmmm…. then who is the target audience?  In each class, at least one student spoke up to say that his or her dad was a huge Star Wars fan, and the commerical must be aimed at grown ups who are nostalgic for their Star Wars-filled childhood.

This week, we discussed the commericals the kids watched for homework last week, and then we started work on our own print ads.  The kids are designing full-page prints ads for a product or activity that is positive or healthy.  (e.g., apples or playing outside).  Their ads need to use two of the techniques we discussed in class, need to be full color, need to be targeted to a specific audience, and need to follow the Z form.  Remember that the Z form means that there are words at the top and bottom of the page with a grab-your-attention graphic or picture in the middle, not that the items of the page are literally in the shape of a Z.

I sent home a rubric with the assignment and the kids should fill it out and turn it in with their ads.

First Grade Math — Pascal’s Penguins and Shopping for Words

Last time I saw the first grade math students, we read the book 365 Penguins by Jean-Luc Fromental and Joelle Jolivet.  This quirky book is about a family who receives mysteriously a penguin each day for a year.

365 Penguins

As you can imagine, the possession of so many penguins leads to numerous problems — how to feed them?  how to store them?  — and the book is full of equations associated with solving these problems.  In the end, the family discovers that the penguins have been sent by an eccentric uncle looking to smuggle the birds to a safer habitat.

After we read the book, I introduced the homework to the students.  They had two problems to solve at home.  First, they needed to figure out how many penguins the family had on the last day of June.  Next, the kids needed to calculate on which day the family received the 250th penguin.  The solutions require addition, but one also needs to know how many days are in each month. It’s not as easy or straightforward as it sounds.

On the back of the worksheet was the super challenge:

I gave the kids this image and asked them to fill in the numbers on the blank penguins.  I let them know that the missing numbers were greater than zero and smaller than ten, and that they should be able to find a pattern or equation to help them figure it out, but that’s all I told them.

Only one person solved the problem in class on their own (I’m looking at you, Nicholas Zochowski!) but all of the students worked dilligently.  Did they come home wondering about the answer?  Many students turned in papers with the correct solution to the super challenge.  The problem is, of course, based on Pascal’s Triangle.  To determine the numbers in the penguins, simply add the two penguins above.

We had so much fun with this that this week we embarked on an activity that was similarly challenging.  We went shopping for words.  I gave the kids a sheet listing the prices for each letter — A cost $1, B cost $2, all the way up to Z for $26.

The kids had several tasks, and I let them choose which ones to work on in class (though I strongly encouraged them to choose tasks 3 and 4):

  1. Calculate the value of their first and last names
  2. Calculate the value difference between their first and last names
  3. Find a word worth exactly $50
  4. Find a word worth exactly $100
  5. Find the most expensive word you can

The kids spent the entire class busily working to find solutions.  Several students found $50 words (that’s you again, Nicholas, and you, Mateo and Claire).

I told the kids that finding words worth exactly $50 and $100 takes a lot of calculations.  If they enjoy it, they should keep trying at home.  If they become frustrated, they should spend no more than 10 or 15 minutes on each problem, and then they should call it a day.

I offered a reward for the most expensive word found by a first grade math student.  I didn’t specify what the reward is, so you’ll have to tune in later to find out (and for the reveal of the most expensive word).