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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Teaching Number Sense: The Number Roll and a FREEBIE!

As teachers, we are always striving to find ways of teaching "number sense" to our primary students.  Our goal is to help them gain an intuitive understanding of numbers, what they mean, and how they are related to one another.  One of the best ways I have found to instill a foundation for these concepts in my own classroom is through our use of the Montessori Number Roll.  

For the past 16 years, I have had the privilege of working with an incredible teacher who is Montessori trained.  She has taught me a lot of things that have made my students more successful.  Because of her, I use a lot of Montessori math in the classroom, including the Number Roll.  

Sometime during the second semester (depending on my students), I get out our Number Roll work.  I have found that it's a great way to instill in students several mathematical concepts:

1) "One more" makes the next number.  Some students struggle with this until they have to physically add one cube each time before writing the next number.
2) Place value.  Using the base ten blocks to make each number (especially after reaching the 100s) provides students with a strong tactile and visual sense of each number.  They must then record each number using the proper spaces according to place value.
3) A sense of quantity (helps with estimation).  At the end of the year or when students have reached higher numbers, we roll their work out in the gym.  Students can literally see 483, 513, or whatever number they have reached.  It is a VERY powerful visual!
4) Patterns.  I encourage students to use the base ten blocks, tediously adding one at a time and switching ten ones for a ten and ten tens for a hundred, until they reach around 200 or 300 (it varies for each student).  After that, students have usually mastered the pattern of numbers, writing in 48, for example, down the whole sheet in the hundreds and tens columns, then the numbers 0-9 in the ones column to make 480, 481, 482, etc.  Once students reach this understanding, I know that the Number Roll has worked its magic!

Since, as I have said, I am not Montessori trained, I have my own way of approaching the Number Roll.  I am sure that it is a little different, but here's my procedure:

Step #1) I prepare the number strips ahead of time.  Download your FREE SET HERE.  I use a 100 board page and just cut it into sections with only 1 column (ones), 2 columns (tens), 3 columns (hundreds), and 4 (thousands).  Of course, you will only need as many 1 column strips as you have students because these are used only for numbers 1-9.  You will also need only 9 rows on these while the rest of the strips require all 10 rows (10-19, 20-29, etc).  

Step #2)  I introduce this center activity to students at circle time.  I make my own number roll to at least 29.  I demonstrate how to first add 1 base ten block before writing each number.  When I reach 10 ones blocks, I show students how to "exchange" this set of ten ones for a rod of ten.  

Step #3)  I give each student (or a small group of students, which is preferable) one paper strip with blocks for #1-9, two or more paper strips to the tens place value, 10 ones blocks, and several rods of tens.  

Step #4)  I allow students to begin on their own.  At the early stages, I am checking to make sure students are using the base ten blocks to add only 1 each time.  I will also check to make sure each number is written in the correct spot according to place value.  

Step #5)  When we first start the number rolls, I tape each one to a small card with the student's name and then hang it on the wall within student reach.  However, you will soon find that the strips get too long!  So, as you can see in the picture, I tape it to a toilet paper roll.  The student keeps wrapping it around, paper-clipping it at various intervals.  

Step #6)  I encourage students to keep working on their number roll over the next 2 or 3 weeks.  Younger students can stop just past 100, while those entering first grade the following year benefit most from continuing past at least 2 or 3 hundred.  Although, I have had a number of students who continued doing the number roll until they reached over 1,000!  

I hope that you find this post helpful.  I definitely encourage you to try the number roll out in your own classroom.  It really helps students gain an understanding of the progression of numbers and place value.  

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  1. I hope to try this, but being a hands-on person, I may have to ask you questions. Hope that is OK.
    kindergarten, California