Category Archives: Elementary Mathematics

Deducing the “Mystery” Fraction

Estimation is an important mathematical skill, yet we rarely ask students to make estimates that relate to fractions. As part of the Dynamic Number project, we created a "mystery" fraction challenge  that presents a green point somewhere between 0 and 1 on the number line. The point's location can be represented as a fraction with … Continue Reading ››

Multiplication Arrays

I've lost track of how many  parents have quizzed me as to why the mathematics their children are learning is so different from what they remember in school. "Why must my kids study more than one way to multiply? Isn't memorizing their multiplication facts enough?" is a frequent lament. James Tanton, Mathematician in Residence at the … Continue Reading ››

Cross Number Puzzles

We live in a golden age of number puzzles. Sudoku is probably the most famous of all modern-day number puzzles, but there are many Japanese puzzles that are also gaining popularity, such as KenKen and Menseki Meiro. In this post, I'd like to introduce a number puzzle for young learners that predates … Continue Reading ››

Exploring Multiples on a Dynamic Number Grid

What would it take to build a better number grid for young learners? A typical number grid contains 10 columns with the numbers progressing from 1-10, 11-20, 21-30 and so on, from row to row. We decided to upend this tradition and make a dynamic number grid with Web Sketchpad that allows students to choose … Continue Reading ››

Creating Animated Factorization Diagrams

Last year, I had the pleasure of co-organizing a geometry-focused coaching collaborative led by Metamorphosis, a New York-based organization that offers professional content coaching to transform the mindset and practices of teachers and administrators. I had so much fun that I decided to do it again! My workshop partners were Metamorphosis staffers Toni Cameron, Ariel Dlugasch, … Continue Reading ››

Make Your Own Fractions

In my very first Sine of the Times blog post from January 2012, I wrote about the paucity of fractions that young learners typically encounter in their math classes. While they might construct visual representations of 1/2, 2/3, and 8/12, it's unlikely they'll create models of 7/31, 36/19, or 5/101. That's a shame because without … Continue Reading ››

Stars, Polygons, and Multiples

I've always found my collaborations with teachers to be a great inspiration for curriculum development, and that was especially true of my work with Wendy Lovetro, an elementary-school teacher in Brooklyn, NY. Wendy coordinated an after-school math club at her school, and I used the setting as an opportunity to develop and field test Sketchpad activities for the … Continue Reading ››

Raz’s Magic Multiplying Machine

Here is a question you don't hear very often: What does it feel like to experience multiplication in our bodies? It's a strange question because our typical exposure to multiplication is numerical. I give you two numbers—say, 3 and 5—and you tell me their product, 15. But multiplication need need not be so static and concrete. Back … Continue Reading ››

Developing Arithmetic Fluency Through “Drill and Thrill”

In a previous post, I described the game Chisla, an app that succeeds in making basic arithmetic both challenging and tense.  Given a numerical target, you have just 15 seconds to pick numbers from a list of possible addends that will sum to that value. A target of 10 is no big deal, but when the target escalates … Continue Reading ››

Adding and Subtracting on a Dynamic Number Chart

Below is a collection of four interactive number charts that we first introduced in our NSF-funded Dynamic Number project. Start by asking students to press the four directional arrows and to explore what they do. The right arrow, for example, moves the shaded square to the right, and wraps the square to the next row up when you … Continue Reading ››