3 Act: Slow Your Roll

Act 1:

What do you notice? What do you wonder?

Possible questions: How many candies are in the package?

How many of each color are in the package?

Act 2:

There are white, pink, yellow, green, brown, black, orange and purple candies.  There are 40 candies altogether.

There are  5 pink candies

There are the same  number of yellow candies as pink

There are 3 less green candies than yellow

There are 4 brown and black candies

There are the same number of brown candies as there are black candies

There are 6 more white candies than pink

There are 4 less orange candies than white

There are the same number of purple candies as there are green, brown and black combined.

Act 3:


Act 3 Photo

3 Act Task: Bubble Trouble

I have a stock pile of 3 Act tasks I have been waiting to film over the past few months and am just now carving out a few hours to get them going.

When I saw this bag of bubble gum at the store, it stood out because there were 3 flavors. My mind immediately went to structuring an addition problem with 3 addends for first grade.  Here is what I came up with.  I decided to add the ten frames for the reveal as I wanted students to pay attention to how the 8 and 2 could be combined to make a 10.  I feel like adding that opened this task up to another standard.  Please comment on how to extend the task or modify it to make it better.  It takes a math village:)

CCSS 1.OA.D.8 and 1.OA.C.6.

Act 1:

What did you notice?  What do you wonder?

What is an answer that is too high, too low?

Act 2:

What information do you need to answer the question?

There are 10 apple, 8 grape, 2 cherry

Act 3:

Why Flip Math Class?

Flipped classrooms have been the topic of conversation for the last few years.  I remember being in Italy in a small town on the Amalfi Coast and seeing a plaque for a flipped classroom.  I’m not sure why it struck me to see this type of classroom on another continent, but it did.  I had just heard about the practice and was excited that the technology in classrooms was catching up to the idea of personalized learning so that it could become a reality in the schools in which I was coaching.  Since then, I have helped many teachers start the journey of flipping their classrooms and have modeled what it can look like in multiple grade levels.  Last year, I was able to implement flipped lessons in the first grade classroom with my students in mathematics.  That experience has taught me a lot about what I find important in flipped lesson design and independent practice and allowed me to refine those components.

There is a lot of anxiety when first introducing this concept to elementary school teachers.  It’s similar to talking to high school teachers about math stations.  There is a misconception that math stations are only for elementary kids and that flipped lessons can only be implemented in high school. Although this is a common misconception, I would like to note that there are many components that must be in place in order for either to be successful.  A really great flipped lesson will incorporate opportunities for students to interact with mathematics with concrete materials or with models.  It is equally imperative that the math block consist of opportunities for students to engage in discourse and discussion.  Collaboration is key in all content areas, but in my opinion, especially in mathematics.  One of the key components to an effective flipped is bridging the link between conceptual -> pictoral -> abstract.  When introducing a concept using materials, a written model should also be provided as well as a bare number task.  This has been the missing component in building student proficiency in younger grades.

Students need to be able to connect the tasks they are completing to numerical representations.  A great way to make sure this happens is create inquiry tasks that allow students to make sense of the mathematics begin taught instead of simply following procedures.  For instance, I could pose the scenario: The answer is 12, what is the question?  Or consider the number model 3 + 4 = 7, make a Stop Motion video to tell the story of the equation.  Math isn’t about pages of problems, it is about meaningful connections and opportunities for discourse.  Once students start to see math as creative, it will change the way they approach the subject.

It can be really intimidating to record yourself on camera.   I have flipped many lessons, and it is definitely a different feeling to know that your instruction is being recorded and archived.  You are more aware of your every word, more intentional about your language, and more precise with instructional strategies.  In my opinion, that is a great thing!

Why Flip Your Classroom?

Take Two

We’ve all been there; we’ve planned the perfect lesson and know exactly how we are going to present the math, but we start the delivery and it all goes South.  When you record a lesson for students, you have the opportunity to capture your best teaching.  It’s like the difference between live television and pre-recorded TV shows.  You have the opportunity to edit and make them more refined because you are choosing and editing the best take.


Many schools require all students in each grade-level to teach content areas at the same time with the same objective.  We could debate all day about this practice, but the key concept to take away is that we want to make sure we provide all students with a rigorous curriculum while still allowing for personalized instruction within their ZOPD.  Flipped lessons are a great way to allow students to have access to the same grade-level content, but also get the interventions they need either forward or backward.  This is done by allowing students who have the concept to complete their work and move on to newer concepts.  Students struggling with the concept can receive additional guided practice with the teachers because she/he has time to meet with them individually or in small groups.  A common misconception is that “struggling learner” means that a student has a low IQ or doesn’t have a particular subject ability.  The truth is that we all have different strengths and experiences and a student who struggles with number sense may very likely soar through geometry.  So instead of keeping that student in number sense during independent work time, let them pick their area of strength and complete it and then allow more time for assistance with areas of struggle.

Rewind -> Replay

Struggling students aren’t the only ones who need access to past lessons.  Many students who have “mastered” concepts need review at times.  As adults, we sometimes fail to realize that things we take for granted such as looking up a conversion chart on our telephones when buying something sold in mL is a learned behavior on how to navigate mathematics.  The same goes for when we need to install a new dryer and we have to look up a YouTube video on how to convert the outlet.  Students need to know how to find information when they need it and one way to do that is to provide them with past lessons to review conceptual and procedural knowledge when they need it.  I’m not embarrassed to say that I’ve had to look up how to do long division as an adult math teacher because I have accepted the fact that my brain doesn’t have to hold that information because I rarely use it.  It is rare that I am faced with a division situation that needs to be so precise that I need to use long division, and if I do, I pull out my calculator.

Game Directionsgame.png

I like to record my game directions for stations because it allows students to go back and revisit expectations if they haven’t played for a while or are having a disagreement about the rules.  This solves a lot of behavioral problems without my intervention.


Lesson Organization

adding 10

flipped shapesThere are many ways to organize your lessons, but I have included a picture of the way I laid out our lessons for math each day.  For young learners (and old) it is important to provide them a snapshot of the materials needed for the lesson so that once they begin the video, they have all the necessary materials to complete it.


We used many ways for students to share their work, but the most effective way for us was the use of SeeSaw Learning Journal.  Students could upload a screenshot of their work from an app or a picture of their independent practice page or completed activity.  This was a really easy way for me to confirm if the student had completed their practice yet.  As mentioned in a previous post, I have designed a personalized learning path for students to track their own standard mastery but we did not get to implement it last year.  I’ll be sharing more of that work in future posts.

Additional Considerations

Revisit your flipped lessons regularly.  Don’t keep the same lesson if you have found better ways to teach it.  Refine your work and stay on the cutting edge of research.

Constructing Shapes

Personally, I think Ava Rectanglethat geometry is one of the more concrete concepts for students to grasp in primary grades; quite literally.  There are tons of ideas of how to construct shapes on the internet, in math books, etc.  I love the activities with spaghetti and with Popsicle sticks and gumdrops, but those activities can be limiting when working with shapes with curved sides.  These activities can be misleading when students decide to extend shapes and we have to be very careful that we not provide fixed and limiting language such as, “the gumdrops are the vertices” because that is not true in a shape like the one to the left.

We recently bought a set from Learning Resources that, in my opinion, is the best out there for allowing students to construct two and three dimensional shapes and combine shapes to make new ones.  I used these in my small groups to let students explore and then name their shapes.  We use Seesaw in our classroom as a learning portfolio and after students made their shapes, they took a picture and labeled them on their Seesaw accounts.

The standard I had in mind with this exploration was: 1.GA.2: Compose two-dimensional shape or three-dimensional shapes to create a composite shape, and compose new shapes from the composite shape.

It’s so interesting to watch and listen as students construct their shapes.  Just as with any creative activity, students who are identified as struggling learners by standardized tasks excel at the task and take the initiative and go further with their learning because they aren’t inhibited by language or symbols that they aren’t yet able to make sense of.  Often the accelerated learners on standardized tasks do the bare minimum to complete the task and move on.  I think these observable behaviors tell us a lot about the mindset of the student and their past experiences with learning.  They also tell us which students value play and which value praise.


David 2David Open SquareOpen-ended tasks like these are my favorite because they allow opportunities for students to explore misconceptions like the one here.  This student doesn’t yet understand that a shape must be closed.  This was an opportunity for me to quickly see that and perhaps more importantly for other students to notice and provide feedback.  The picture on the right is the square after he corrected it (and his understanding of shapes).Jamie Oval

This student had a misconception about circles and ovals which I may not have found so easily without this time to explore and create.


These tasks are low entry, high ceiling opportunities because all students can make a shape and most students end up stretching their knowledge andAva Triangle vocabulary because they end up making shapes that they cannot name.  This leads to all kinds of discussions on how to categorize shapes and the difference between two dimensional and three dimensional shapes.  I provide students the written names of shapes once they name them and ask how to spell it or if they cannot name it and I am helping them name it for the first time.  Here are some examples of two-dimensional shapes students created:

Three-dimensional shapes:

Combining Shapes

YoumnaThis student started out with a square and built onto it to make it a rectangle.  She discovered how to Pyramid w Oval Haydencombine shapes to make new ones.

This student combed a 3D and a 2D shape to make a sculpture.

LamarThis student is one of my very low performing student sin most subjects, but in math he excels because he is able to make sense of his own learning through play and discovery. Sean Rect Prism

I used this picture earlier, but this student started with a cube and decided he wanted to extend it to see what it turned out to be.  He needed help naming it, but loved that he had discovered a “new” shape.



We shouldn’t limit ourselves to tasks that offer fixed outcomes.  We must search for tasks that allow students to be creative and “build” their own meaning.  As you know, I am a huge proponent of STEAM integration in primary grades and this is just one example of a task that melds mathematics and 21st century skills.  We need to let kids explore more and allow ourselves as educators to do less talking and more listening!

3 Act: How Much Joy?

This task supports a couple of different standards in first grade, but I feel it best fits 1.OA.B.3 if used with the Act 2 problem “there are three groups of five and four more.”  It would fit standard 1.NBT.B.2 if using the Act 2 prompt “there is one group of ten and nine more.”

It would be a great place to start before introducing counting on with coins in second grade for standard 2.MD.C.8.

Act 1:

What do you notice?  What do you wonder?

How many candy bars are in the bag?

Act 2:

1.OA.B.3: There are three groups of five and four more

1.NBT.B.2: There is one group of ten and nine more

Act 3:

Act 3 Joy

Act 3.1 Joy

Act 3.2 Joy

3 Act: A Delicious Mix

I always draw inspiration from the candy isle, doesn’t everyone?  Tonight I was planning to buy some candy for another 3 Act task I was planning when I spotted a bag of 3 different chocolates…on CLEARANCE!  Immediately I thought of fractions and so the 3 Act task below was born!  Please comment and tell me how I can  improve it or add extensions as I am wiped for the day and just wanted to end it with some math:)

Ideally you will introduce this task during your unit on fractions so that students’ minds will be in “fraction mode” and propose wonderings that relate to fractions.  If they go to how many in each bag, you might need to funnel their thinking or let them go down that path and then use the fractions as an extension.

I have included an additional picture for the reduced fractions that can be used as an extension or in place of the original depending on your instructional purpose.

This task will address standard 4.NF.B.3.A if using the 1st Act 3 slide with unreduced fractions with the same denominator.  You may choose to address standard 4.NF.A.1 by extending to the 2nd Act 3 slide and having students reduce the original fractions.

Act 1:

What do you notice?  What do you wonder?

What fraction of each kind of candy are in the bag?  Make a too high and a too low estimate.

Act 2:

What information will you need to find a solution?  What do you know?  What do you need to know?

A Delicious Mix Reeses Act 2A Delicious Mix Rolo Act 2Act 2 Total

Act 3:

Where you correct?

A Delicious Mix Act 3A Delicious Mix Act 3 Reduced

As always, let me know how I can make this better and if you see a more appropriate standard alignment!  I look forward to the feedback!

Thanks for the feedback!  Here are some suggestions from MissMathTeacher314: This addresses standard 3.NF.A.1 as well for fraction identification and defining equal parts.
Extensions could include: How many more kisses than rolos? How would you equally share these with 4 friends? How many bags would you need to buy to have so everyone in their class would get 3 peanut butter cups?
You could give the simplified fractions of the Reese’s and the Rolos for Act 2 rather than the exact count. Flip the script to ask how many pieces of each candy are in the bag rather than asking for the fraction.

Stop Motion Number Stories

The last couple of days we have been making stop motion videos to represent addition IMG_0453.JPGstories.  The learning goal was to use objects to represent an addition story and then tell the story and write the addition sentence that was represented.  My main goal was really to get students familiar with stop motion in this context and to get the process of shooting the videos and writing the caption in #Seesaw to become easy.

As all things go when teaching 6-year-olds new tools, the process was long and it took me two days of small groups to work with each of our 37 students, but the result was worth every minute!

twitter1.pngMany of our struggling and reluctant learners lit up when they got to pick out animals for their videos!  I didn’t have to convince them to complete the assignment…they wanted to!  Which as you know by now, are the type of assignments I love to give!

Since my goal over the past two days was more process specific to the tools being learned, I scripted most of the stories for students on Seesaw to speed up the process, but made sure they knew how to add a comment for next time when it is up to them to do the writing!

It was great to hear a couple of students say, “I’m going to create a subtraction story now!”

IMG_0452.JPGMy goal is to have Stop Motion Math be a station choice in our room and provide open ended prompts or learning targets to prompt their creations.  Things I would like to do in the future include providing number sentences that need to be represented with a story, providing word problems to solve with a video, and expand into all other standards as a means to show mastery of a concept.

I had so much fun doing this today and saw so much excitement, that I decided to start a website called http://www.stopmotionmath.com that will be up shortly to showcase examples of student work and problems and prompts and ideas of how to use this in your classroom.

We use the Stop Motion Animator extension from the Google Chrome Store.  My partner teacher used this earlier in the year for some literacy tasks, so I will ask her to share those as well.

So excited to do more of this with our kiddos!

Here are some video examples:

Can you guess their story?

Brooklyn’s Video:

Brooklyn’s Post:


Francis’ Video:

Francis’ Post:


Aiden’s Video:

Aiden’s Post:


Sean’s Video:

Sean’s Post:


Lamar’s Video:

Lamar’s Post:


Alyvia’s Video:

Alyvia’s Post: Alyvia1.png