Category Archives: Choral Count

Choral Count: Trusting Patterns

In the next round of 1st grade videos for my Teaching Channel Math Routines series, I am so excited to release a video of a Choral Count. When I taught 5th grade, I used Choral Counts a lot with decimals and fractions, so using them in the earlier grades was such an interesting parallel to that work.

I don’t want give away what you will see in the video, but Heidi’s recent post about trusting patterns when multiplying by 10s made me think about two particular student journal entries after the count.

In this count, students counted by 10s starting at 4 as I recorded their count and I stopped them at 154. They discussed patterns they saw in the count and afterwards, I asked them to journal about any new or extended patterns they think may happen if we continued counting. One thing I stress in their journal writing is the fact that it doesn’t have to always be written in words, we can explain mathematics with numbers as well. These two students didn’t include any description of what they noticed, but from their recording, I can assume some things about what they saw.

Through Heidi’s lens of trusting patterns, I watched this student record her extended count. Instead of writing every number in its entirety, this student wrote out all of the tens and then went back to add all of the 4s on. I asked her how she could show the pattern she noticed and she quickly went back to underline all of the tens. She trusted the pattern that the tens would continue going up by 1 and the ones place would stay the same throughout the rest of the count since we were counting by 10s. The pattern she noticed and trusted worked, would continue to work if she kept counting, and is something teachers could build on by counting by different multiple of tens.


Now, this student below invented another pattern that doesn’t keep the count in tact but brings up an interesting connection to the work above. Instead of looking at the tens going up by 1 and ones place staying the same, this student added 100s going down each column. In his work, the tens and ones stayed the same while the 100’s increased by 1 with each jump down.


The more I looked at these, I thought about how to support students in later grades who are unsure whether to trust a pattern or even why patterns work in the first place. For example, and not that counting by 7’s would be the way to go, but for Heidi’s problem of 2,000 x 7, I wonder how a choral count could support students who were struggling to explain multiplying by 10s. The student in Heidi’s example obviously has a grasp of the idea, but what about those who don’t?

Let’s see what we notice here:

7       14     21    28     35

42     49     56    63     70

77     84     91    98    105

112   119   126   133   140

Could students pull out where the multiples of 10 would show up if we kept counting?

Could they translate that pattern to equations?

Could they connect this additive thinking to multiplicative thinking?

Could they apply that same understanding to counting by another number but keeping the same structure of 5 in each row that is shown here?

All of these questions are so interesting to me and leave me wondering if we did more of this work in the earlier grades the impact it would have in later grades. Thank you Heidi for sparking such a great convo on Twitter and giving me a different lens for student work in the earlier grades!



Planning K-5, literally

Tomorrow I have the opportunity to teach a Kindergarten, 2nd and 5th grade class! It is so exciting and interesting to be thinking across all of the grade levels in one day of lesson planning! The most interesting part for me, in thinking through this, is the connections across all of the grades. There is so much potential for conjecture and claim-making supported by their development of proofs.

Background: The 5th and 2nd grade teachers are out at a state math teacher leader meeting so I am teaching instead of the substitute. The kindergarten teacher and I will be teaching it together. I have met with each teacher to chat about where they are within their units and what they have been seeing students do within the current work. I invited teachers both at those grade levels and at other grade levels to pop in if they have the time. I thought it would be great having more people to reflect with after the lessons!

5th Grade: They have just started working with finding a fraction of a fraction using bar models. The initial work is unit fraction of a unit fraction and then moves to non-unit. (My post on that from a couple of years ago on this work, I wish I had done that better, so here is a chance to try something new;) Leigh, the teacher, says they have been really successful in partitioning the bars and arriving at the correct answer. I am thinking about starting with a number routine of either a choral count or a number talk string like 1/2 of 12 = __ of 24… As far as the lesson, I could continue work with this and have students look at noticings after and explore them deeper.They have done these noticings with whole number times a fraction or mixed number, so this could be a revisiting of similarities or differences. OR I could do this cornbread task as a formative assessment as the next piece they will move into is an area model. It may be really helpful for Leigh to see how they are thinking about this before they jump into the work. This is my least planned because I keep bouncing all around with ideas.

2nd Grade: They have been working with even and odd numbers and counting by groups of 2’s, 5’s, and 10’s.  All of this work is within contexts of break a group of students into equal teams or everyone having a partner. Tara, the classroom teacher, said the students are really great at determining whether a number is odd or even, however when asked how many would be on each team, a lot of students struggle. They are great if they know a related double fact, however if they don’t they resort to “passing out” by tallies or drawing the picture and physically dividing the number of things in half. For example, if they do not know 11+11 is 22, then finding the number of on each team become passing out 22 things into two groups to find 11. While they are successful in this, Tara and I were wondering why they do not say 10+10=20 and 1+1=2 so 11+11=22. They are able to add 11 and 11 but unable to decompose it as fluently.

In thinking about this, I am inclined to want to connect that addition to halving. I am thinking a counting collection would be fabulous for this. Give students a collection of things to count. Share how we counted them because I am positive they will not count them by 1’s given a large set. We can share as a whole group, record ways in which we counted and determined if our number was even or odd. Then, put the collection back together, switch with a partnering team and then split the collection into two groups. The share would be, “Could you make two equal groups?” “Was your number even or odd? How did you know?” Record strategies. Ask for noticings/wonderings about how they counted and how they divided into two groups.

Kindergarten: The students in this class have been doing a lot of work with ten frames, dot images, counting jars, etc and having students counting and adding to compose a number. They have just begun working on decomposition of number so I immediately thought about the mice activity in Thinking Mathematically. Linda, the teacher, and I planned to do this activity with the students. In preparation, we read NCTM TCM’s article by Zachary M. Champagne, Robert Schoen, and Claire M. Riddell, Variations in Both Addends Unknown Problems. We are going to use 6 bunnies and see how students show all of the ways the bunnies can be inside and outside in a pen. Instead of just giving a context, I was imagining that the students may need a visual of the rabbit pen so I created this image to launch with a quick notice and wonder:

Screen Shot 2015-12-06 at 9.51.28 AM.png

We will then let the students work on finding the different ways in partners and then come back for a whole group share and record the ideas on the board. We are really looking to see two things….1-how they organize their information and 2- the strategies they use. The students will do a notice/wonder about the recorded information. If there is time it would be great to see if students, when given a different number, would apply any of the strategies and/or organizational tools shared.

Going for a run to think through this a bit more! Would love any thoughts/suggestions, as always!



Investigating Patterns

Due to ELA testing, I luck out with an extra 45 minutes of math time twice this week, and today was one!! I wanted my students to revisit the choral count we did on Monday and look deeper into the patterns they noticed. To extend that thinking, I wanted them to make some predictions about decimals that may or may not show up if we continued counting by 0.3 (Thanks so much Elham for the suggestion:)!

We revisited the count and the noticings…

IMG_0174 IMG_0176  IMG_0177

I then wrote some decimals on the board, shown inside the rectangles (kinda) in the first picture above. I asked them to try and use the patterns they discovered to decide if the decimals would show up if we kept counting by 0.3. I was sure to choose a range of options so everyone had an entry into the investigation and focused on the patterns we had discussed. I loved the way they explored their patterns and it completely intrigued me the manner in which they do so.

Some explored by multiples of 3 by looking at wholes and then tenths…

IMG_0201 IMG_0202

IMG_0208  IMG_0203

Some used the patterns that involved just one place value but did not look at the decimal as a number…


This group looked at the decimal as a number and chose one pattern they know would work for any number. They broke each decimal into partial quotients to see if each part was divisible by 3…

IMG_0205Other groups used a variety of patterns, noticing that some would work nicely for certain decimals and not others…


The next two especially caught my attention because I had not anticipated the connections being made (I ADORE the way they think:)..

Let’s look at the first one…IMG_0210He saw the “switching the digits around and the other decimal always shows up” pattern working every time and decided to examine the why. His approach was so interesting. He decided to look at the missing addend between the number and its “switch” each time.  He noticed the missing addend was always a multiple of 0.9. He then started to look at the relationship between the original numbers and their missing addend. For example (and I so wish you could hear his thinking on this) the missing addend from 1.2 and its switch was 0.9 and the missing addend from 5.7 and its switch was 1.8, so what is the relationship between 1.2 and 5.7 that explains why the missing addend doubles? My curiosity is..what makes that be the next step for some students while others just notice it the missing addend is a multiple of 0.9 and are content. Loved this moment today because I got such insight into how students look at different pieces of a “puzzle” and choose to explore different relationships.

This one was so funn…

IMG_0196She noticed that any two numbers in her list (table), added together, had a sum that also appeared in the table or would appear, if extended. I asked her how she knew that and she showed me a few examples. “Ok, but why?” She thought for a while and then said, “Okay, it is kind of like the even plus and odd number will always give you an even number.” I could tell she was starting to make sense of the structure of numbers but having such a struggle in explaining it. To her, it seemed to just make sense and I think (hard not to make assumptions) that she was thinking about that 0.3 being a factor of both so duh, it just is.

She came back up, an hour later (she kept working on it when she left me:), and said she had it…”it is like DNA.” Ok, now I am intrigued. She explained it to me and I asked her if she could write that down for me because I thought it was so cool…

IMG_0195It seems like a stretch and I am still thinking about the connections, but I am stuck on the piece in which she says, ” …may look different but act similar…or act different but look similar….”

How many connections to factors and products, addends and sum and such ring true in this statement?? I love when they leave me with something to think about!!!

Another great day in math!