Many of the students in the class "know" their multiplication facts already. This always makes it a bit tricky to teach the *concept *of multiplication. The language that is often used for mathematical terms can be problematic too. Part way through our lesson today, when I had been saying multiplication and "groups of" over and over, one of the students said, "Oh, doesn't that X means times?" She had never heard the term multiplication or understood the concept of it being "groups of"! And then, there were a handful of students in the class who had no real idea about multiplication at all.

Because there are three students who are Jehovah Witnesses in the class, and I want to be as inclusive as possible, I haven't done any of the typical "Hallowe'en Math" type things I usually do. The students didn't seem to notice or mind at all which is a good thing for me to remember. We did investigate pumpkins yesterday and students were estimating the numbers of seeds inside and measuring the height and circumference of the pumpkins. We did a draw today for 5 of the students to take home the uncarved pumpkins and finish them up at home if they want to.

Today we played a version of the Marilyn Burns classic game, Circles and Stars, but instead, did Bats in Caves. I had a student roll a die (in this example, a 3) and we drew that many caves. On the next roll (in this example, a 2) the students placed that many bats in each cave. After each step, we built the equation (I was recording upside down!) and I was careful to use the "groups of" language. Particularly with several ESL students in my class, I made sure to review the parts of the equation by making connections to the visual model. For example, I asked "What does the 2 mean or stand for?" and had students point and describe that it meant that there were 2 bats in each group/cave. The students recorded one round of the "game" in their math notebooks and now will be able to play this as an independent game. If you play this game with materials and then have students record with a picture and equation, you are getting at all three levels of representation - concrete, pictorial and symbolic, which helps to strengthen conceptual understanding. I have a feeling the students won't be quite as excited about it when we are using unifix cubes instead of bats though ;)

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