Math Empowers 1

Middletown Township Public Schools

Grade 1 - Second Trimester 2018-2019

Unitizing TENS and ONES: Emerging Place Value

During the next trimester, first graders will continue composing and decomposing numbers, but will LEVEL UP to working with tens as a unit. This is the foundation for place value, on which future math strategies are built. This is a HUGE idea in elementary mathematics and it is SO MUCH MORE than identifying the tens place and the ones place. Learners must have many opportunities to develop the trust that tens can be counted on as a unit; that 1 TEN or TEN ONES can and will be used interchangeably. Learners need to see 34 as 34 ones OR 3 TENS and 4 ONES.... and (eventually) that 2 TENS & 14 ONES is also 34. We spend a little time exploring flexible place value... or "many ways to make numbers" but the second and third grade teachers will tell us that we need even more time composing, decomposing, rearranging, discussing and applying tens. As early as grade 2, little ones must work with numbers in the hundreds flexibly.


To support PLACE VALUE development:



  • Keep base ten blocks out daily for personal/group use.
  • Consider using cut up "tiny ten frames" while transitioning to place value when needed. There is usually more buy in with ten frames than base tens. Use them to scaffold to base ten blocks!
  • Try the Math Learning Center's Digital Place Value Blocks as a Smart board tool. (Called Number Pieces) Encourage students to count by tens (and some ones) while you model the count. "Let's start with 3 ones and add a 10. What does that make? Here is another 10. and another. What happens if I take a 10 away? What if I take a 1 away?
  • Ask students to predict how many ten sticks could be made from 35 snap cubes... with how many leftover? How about 42 snap cubes? What if we had 95 snap cubes? Show and discuss the patterns. And be sure to repeat these activities LONG AFTER the lessons have passed.
  • In addition to all the HANDS ON activities, consider Shark Numbers Place Value at your chrome book center. It is easy to differentiate with a variety of levels.
  • Consider Leveling Up your Spill & Show centers (or any number composition games played with counters or dice) by simply writing the number 2 on some counters, or playing with dimes and then nickels. (Some first graders might love playing with 20 on each counter) SUPER SIMPLE DIFFERENTIATION!
  • See your building math specialist for more support; perhaps modeling a place value based number talk or counting circle! Email me at vennemank@middletownk12.org for more resources.

Follow Steve on Twitter & Start Downloading!

Steve Wyborney is a K-12 District Math Coach. He has authored 14 books, including The Writing on the Classroom Wall. Steve frequently presents at conferences, connects with fellow educators through Twitter, and shares math instructional strategies and resources through his blog. Throughout his 23 years in education, Steve has earned numerous teaching awards. In 2005, he was named the Oregon Teacher of the Year. Among some of the rich, engaging math tasks that Steve creates are Esti-Mysteries, Splat!, The Estimation Clipboard, and Cube Conversations. Explore his website for more great activities by clicking here. All of his creations are super motivating for students...see your building math specialist for help implementing any of these great activities! Here is a Recording Sheet for his Esti-Mysteries that also works for your own teacher created "Mystery Number" routines!

Double, Double, It's No Trouble!

As we move on to place value and more and more challenging first grade standards, we continue to spiral the BIG IDEAS from trimester I in our math centers, number talks and counting circles. DOUBLES facts are one of those big ideas with which many first and second grade teachers never feel "finished". We want our first graders to be confident with doubles to 10, AND we want them to see the patterns with doubles. We hope they can articulate the doubles sums are ALWAYS EVEN. We want them to apply doubles to greater numbers... with the understanding that if 10 + 10 = 20, then 11 + 11 is the next even number after 20. To do that, we must provide opportunities to count by twos from greater numbers. Try a quick morning counting routine and go a bit farther each day. Ask students to predict how high the count will get if we go once around our class. How about twice around? Ask this question often! Even if you only have one or two students truly consider it... more and more will try over time. If we write the predictions on the board, some will notice the pattern... and many students need to be pushed to reason. Give them opportunities now... before they are assessed on this ability in a few short months.


Here is a Doubles Strategy Pack which provides differentiated activities from intervention to advanced levels. If students develop some comfort, let them try the interactive game: Hit the Button Doubles. There are many levels available! Students who master all levels can try Hit the Button: Halves! (This is the same site as Hit the Button: Number Bonds for making 10 ... or 20... or 100)

Big picture

Resolve to grow our brains with Dreambox!

2019 will kick off a Dreambox Challenge with the school demonstrating the most growth winning the district challenge banner. The contest will run January 14th -February 14th, which is Valentines Day (or I <3 Math Day!) and as of right now, is also THE 100th DAY of SCHOOL!


It's a math miracle!

Kristine Venneman

Elementary Math Specialist