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Low-Prep Math Routines for Maximum Learning Gains

Jan 23, 2024

Math routines are instructional strategies or approaches that have been proven to be effective in promoting student learning and understanding of mathematical concepts. These routines are considered "high-yield" because they consistently lead to positive learning outcomes, while are also typically low prep for educators.

When to implement and use them: These routines are versatile and can serve as excellent morning message discussions, mini-lessons for the whole class or small groups, and can even be transformed into engaging games suitable for the investigation portion of math workshops.

Here are some benefits of incorporating these routines in the classroom:

  • Increased Conceptual Understanding: High-yield math routines emphasize conceptual understanding over rote memorization. 
  • Oral Language Development: High-yield routines include opportunities for oral language development, which is foundational for conceptual mathematical understanding. 
  • Builds Your Community of Mathematicians: High-yield routines are essential to building your community of mathematicians, offering a space for learners to take risks, develop understanding while communicating and collaborating with one another. 

Guess My Number:

In "Guess My Number," a teacher selects a number within a certain range (e.g., 1 to 100). The children can then ask yes or no questions to uncover the mystery number. As the children are asking questions, be sure to record their thinking on the board. I like to put a Y or N just after the question so they can use previous questions to ask deeper questions. 

  • Benefits:
    • Promotes number sense
    • Develops questioning and oral language
    • Encourages critical thinking and logical reasoning
    • Fosters a collaborative and interactive learning environment
  • Teacher tips:
    • Play once or twice to let the children get the hang of it, then pause part way through a round to discuss “What makes a good question to ask? How do you know?”
    • You can also ask them at the end “Which question was the most helpful today? Why?”
    • When children share things like “Is the number bigger than ___ ? I will rephrase it and write the correct math terminology on the board. “Oh you are wondering if the number is greater than ___? Yes it is greater than ____. This creates a language contagion and then subsequent children will mirror this mathematical language (over time). 

Same but Different:

Same but Different involves presenting students with sets of related mathematical problems or situations that share a common concept but have variations. Students explore the similarities and differences among the problems and identify the underlying mathematical principles. Check out some Same but Different inspiration HERE

  • Benefits:
    • Encourages critical thinking.
    • Highlights the interconnectedness of mathematical concepts.
    • Provides opportunities for noticing details.
    • Builds oral language 
  • Teacher Tips:
    • Notice if the children are frequently having the same misconception. For example if they are often mixing up their teen numbers, you might do a same but different that is 19 and 91 
    • Slowly increase language specificity and accuracy. Using the 19 example if a child says “The first number is a 1 and the second is a 9” say it back to them as “So are you saying this digit here in the tens place is a 1 and the digit in the ones place is a 9?” Slowly, the children will begin using this language naturally in their discussions

Choral Counting:

Choral counting involves the entire class counting together in unison. The teacher selects a starting number, a stop number and interval to count by (1’s, 2, 5’s etc). As the children are sharing the count, the teacher records the numbers on the board. The goal is to build a rhythmic and fluent counting process where students listen to each other and contribute to the counting sequence. Once the count is finished, invite the children to notice interesting things about the numbers. Record their observations visually on the board. Check out some choral counting inspiration online HERE or grab a copy of Choral Counting and Counting Collections

  • Benefits:
    • Reinforces number sequence, patterns and place value.
    • Enhances students' listening and oral communication skills.
    • Promotes a sense of community and shared participation.
    • Builds confidence is saying numbers aloud orally.
  • Teacher Tips:
    • Do the same count multiple times, but record the numbers in a different pattern to facilitate new number observations
    • Counting backwards is an excellent and important precursor to subtraction. 
    • Launch the routine by highlighting the importance of being a community “one voice” together.  

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