Friday, June 14, 2013

Number Sense Routines Book Study: Chapter 1

Little Minds at Work

I am linking up with Little Minds at Work for a book study on Number Sense Routines by Jessica Shumway.

The first chapter answers the question, "What is number sense?" In the past when I have thought about number sense, I have considered it the first step in children learning how to add and to subtract. After reading this chapter I realized that number sense is so much more complex than that. As Shumway wrote, "There are many layers to it, and it is rooted within all strands of mathematics." Students with a strong number sense demonstrate all of the following understandings and skills:

  • A sense of what numbers mean.
  • An ability to look at the world in terms of quantity and number.
  • An ability to make comparisons among quantities.
  • Flexibility, automaticity, and fluidity with numbers.
  • An ability to perform mental math.
  • Flexibility with problems.
  • Automatic use of math information.
  • An ability to determine reasonableness of an answer.
  • An ability to decide on a strategy based on the numbers in a problem.
One of the things that stood out to me in this chapter was Figure 1.3 Components of Number Sense. This web shows that number senses involves big ideas, strategies, skills, models, tools, and language. Once again, this helped show me that number sense is not only children knowing how to compute fluently, but also being able to use the appropriate language and tools to do so. Too many time I have asked my students, "How did you find your answer?" only to be told, "I just thought about it in my head." If my students had a strong sense of numbers, they would have been able to explain their reasoning and thought process.

I also loved, loved, loved Box 1.1 Early Number Sense Learning Trajectory. As a Kindergarten teacher, this is so helpful for me to understand so that I can better support my students' mathematical development. This box includes information on subitizing, magnitude, counting, one-to-one correspondence, cardinality, hierarchical inclusion, part/whole relationships, compensation, and unitizing. To be honest, when I first saw this box I started to think I was in trouble because I was not familiar with half of the terms! Once I read the explanations I felt a lot better because I realized I DO know this stuff, and I have seen this progression in my students throughout the year. I just did not know the proper terminology. I loved that these clear descriptions were included because I believe it is important that I know as much as possible about number sense development to be able to plan developmentally appropriate lessons for my students. 

Tara from Little Minds at Work asked some questions to go along with Chapter 1.

1. What is your current comfort level with teaching number sense?

As a newer teacher, I think my current comfort level with teaching number sense is on the lower side. I have taught two different grade levels and both years I was unsure of where my students would be at the beginning of the year and where they should end up at the end of the year. As the year progressed, I would get to know my students' mathematical skills, but I did not always know what to do to help those that were struggling in their development of number sense.

2. What have you already started in your classroom to build number sense?
At the beginning of the year, I did a lot of subitizing activities with dot cards. I usually used the dot cards while lining up or transitioning to another activity. I also did a daily calendar where we practiced counting (at first rote counting and then later counting with one-to-one correspondence) and place value (when we counted our days in school). The same way I used the dot cards at the beginning of the year, I started to use flash cards towards the end of the year to improve students' mental math with addition and subtracting. 

3. What have you considered adding to your classroom that will give your students that much needed "multiple exposures" component? 
I plan on expanding my subitizing activities to use other tools instead of only using dot cards. Some ideas I have are ten frames and pictures of objects or fingers (I had some students towards the end of the year that were still counting each individual finger on their hands instead of automatically knowing that one hand had five fingers). I would like to do these activities daily and continue throughout the year, not only at the beginning. In my math stations, I would like to include a variety of number sense activities that the students can continuously work on every day. I also plan on extending my calendar time to include more number sense activities including a number of the day and estimation jar. Hopefully with all of these and other additions, I will no longer be told, "I just thought about it in my head" when I asked for a student's explanation of an answer!

I will leave you with my favorite quote from the chapter: Only if children come to believe that there are always multiple ways to solve problems, and that they, personally, are capable of discovering some of these ways, will they be likely to exercise - and thereby develop - number sense.


  1. Great quote chosen from the chapter!! I am glad you found me, so I could find you. I graduated from UCF... more than a few years ago! :0) I am intrigued that you are in the Philippines. I haven't been there since my childhood. Lots of great memories! Great opportunity for you. Glad to be a new follower!

    Learning With Mrs. Brinn

    1. Gwen, I didn't realize you were a fellow UCF alum. Small world! I am curious, are you from the Philippines?