Blog Swap Sunday with Tracey from The Teacher's Chair

So I am excited to be trying out a new "feature" on my blog - Blog Swap Sunday.  Think wife swap only way less drama!  I swap blogs with another teacher blogger out to share new ideas and lessons for the classroom.  I thought this would be a fun way to hear from other teacher bloggers out there. There are so many amazing teacher bloggers with so much valuable information to share.  I know that I have learned so much from others that I have been able to take back and use in my classroom immediately.  I thought this would be a fun way to hear from others and find new ideas.  I am hoping to eventually make this a weekly feature.  If you are interested in participating in Blog Swap Sunday leave me a comment or e-mail me at  Without further ado - here's Tracey!

For this first ever guest appearance I have teamed up with Tracey from The Teacher's Chair.

Goodbye Algorithm, Hello Open Number Line
Just one of the different strategies that make a difference in the way my students learn addition and subtraction.
By Tracey Schumacher, 1st & 2nd Grade Multiage Teacher and author of
The Teacher’s ChairBlog.

I am so excited to be working with Amy from Teaching in Blue Jeans for a guest blog spot! Amy, I am so thankful for the opportunity and am looking forward to having you over for a Blog Swap as well!  Sharing is such an amazing part about being a teacher!

     I’ll let you in on a little secret...I grew up NOT loving math so much. Not loving the memorizing, not loving the formulas or algorithms, not loving the feeling that everyone else seemed to understand this cut and dry subject while my mind was trying to make sense of it in different ways. Sadly, this was pretty much my sentiment throughout high school as well.  Don’t get me wrong, I worked and I worked (and even got tutored at times), but I would have chosen to write an essay over solving for Pi any day! 
Fast forward 10...Fast forward 15... Fast forward to now (there is enough math in this article without having to calculate ages)...Here I am, a multiage teacher and math is perhaps ONE OF MY FAVORITE subjects to teach.  I have a classroom of first and second graders.  For the past 5 years,  I taught both grades in the same classroom.  This year, as per our district (and new standards, curriculum demands and testing) we are splitting the grade levels for math.  I teach the 2nd graders and my colleague in multiage is teaching our first graders.

Our district is currently in the process of choosing a new math program, which I am very excited about! There are a few possibilities on the table, but I definitely have a few favorites in mind.
In the meanwhile, in order to meet the new Common Core Standards for math, I have been supplementing with plenty of Singapore Math Strategies.  For Singapore math, I scoured the internet over the summer and taught myself mostly about their strategies for decomposing numbers (part, part, whole) and bar modeling for problem solving.  Using these strategies has helped to make a big difference in my students’ number sense and in the way they approach word problems.
      Another resource I am loving this year is written by the one and only Marilyn Burns and her team of “Math Solutions” teachers.  Burns and her team wrote a series for Scholastic called, “Do the Math.”  The series I am using focuses on “Numbers and Operations” and has excellent lessons on number sense, computation and problem solving.
You can find out more about Marilyn Burns’ Math Solutions at

You can find out more about the Do The Math Series at

       Part of the reason I love this series is because of the strategies that are presented for addition and subtraction.  Burns does not focus on algorithms, rather, there is a heavy emphasis on “Splitting” and the use of the “Open Number Line.”  

I’d love to go into all of the different methods I have been using, but I will save them for other blog entries!  For now, I want to focus on the Open Number Line Strategy.  As a precursor for using this strategy, I have to stress the importance of students being able to count forward and backward by ones and by multiples of ten.  Plenty of time should be spent early in the year working specifically with the 100s chart.   Students should then begin counting forward and backward with numbers from 100-1,000.  I spent a lot of time with my students doing “warm-ups” of 1 more/1 less, 10 more/10 less, 100 more/100 less.  

After that, they were ready to tackle these number lines (and I was ready to say goodbye to the torturous old way of teaching addition and subtraction with regrouping algorithms!)  It is important to note, that parents should be informed of how to use these new strategies as well.  I’ve been making an effort this year to create a handout for each new strategy I teach, this way the students get the reinforcement at home as well!

So here we go...let’s take a look at how to do it.  Below you will find one of my parent hand-outs.  As a thank you to Amy and her followers, I pulled it out of my packet and am giving it to you as a freebie :) You can the click on picture below to grab it as a Google document:

      As far as subtraction goes, I have taught my class to use the Open Number Line in two ways. First, we worked on the “Counting Back” Method (seen in the graphic below). 

     Currently, we are “Comparing” by counting up from the subtrahend to the minuend.  The comparing method for subtraction is generally my students’ preferred method, because it is much easier for them to count forward rather than backward on a number line.

Recently, during my adventures with the Open Number Line Strategy, I introduced my students to a game I made called, “Deep Sea Dive to Zero.” Throughout the game, students have the opportunity to use subtraction with an open number line.  This game is especially good  during the earliest  "Open Number Line" lessons. You can get it for free right here:

     Let me tell you, the kids went WILD about this game.  When I introduced it, we played “them against me,” and oh, boy, did they ever love that!  After that, I left the game out during the week for them to play during Guided Math Workshop.  It was a big hit and they got quite good at counting backwards by multiples of 10 on an Open Number Line!
This is a funny I am sitting here writing this blog post, I just received notification that I got an email from one of my second grade students.  I CANNOT believe the coincidence of this timing!!!!!  Here is what the email said (on a Sunday morning no less!):

"I love the new math strategies. I taught my parents and they like it better then old fashion math. My favorite is open number line. I started with not being very good at subtraction and then the open number line helped me learn it."

     I cannot express how this made me feel!  A very far cry from what my feelings used to be about math...
...and really, I owe it to the Common Core changes and to math strategies that go beyond the “cut and dry.”   At the heart of it all, of course, are my eager little learners...the real reason why math is a bright spot in my day!

I would love to hear how you are using math strategies in your classroom!
WOW!  Thank you Tracey that was amazing.  My brain is running like crazy right now.  My first thought is I can use this at home.  My son struggles with math and I can't wait to teach him these strategies.  Do you have anything for multiplication?  :-)  My next thought is how can I use this in my kindergarten classroom.  I know and I can do my part by making sure my kids have a great foundation in counting by 1's and 10's. 
Please share how you are using math strategies in your classroom.  Leave a comment below and don't forget to visit The Teacher's Chair for more amazing classroom ideas!  Be sure to enter the drawing for Tracey's addition packet!  You can also check my half of the swap - a post on her blog about Sensational Sight Words


Classroom Freebies Manic Monday