Common Core

Must Read Article on Multiplication

Posted on October 30, 2013. Filed under: Common Core | Tags: |

Multiplication facts are often difficult for children.  Here is a great article about teach multiplication.  Remember a good, research based sequence is:





7 – use other facts to build these

11 – these are easy for students

12 – relate to 6’s

Happy Mathing,

Dr. Nicki

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4 Must Have Workstations: Problem Solving Part 2

Posted on August 6, 2013. Filed under: Common Core, Math Centers, Math Workstations, Mathematical Proficiency, Problem Solving | Tags: , , , , |

In the word problem station, students should also be writing problems.  Remember that reasoning has to do with both contextualizing (numbers to words) and decontextualizing (words to numbers).  So, make sure you give the students opportunities to write word problems at least once or twice a week.  The research states that it is important to give the students the units along with the numbers.

Must read article: The Answer is 20 Cookies, What’s the question?

See my word problem Pinterest Board for some ideas (anchor charts of Think Math)

Happy Mathing,

Dr. Nicki

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Must have Math Workstations: Math Word Problems (Part 1)

Posted on July 31, 2013. Filed under: Common Core, Math Centers, Math Workstations, Mathematical Proficiency | Tags: , , |

Problem Solving is super important. Students need to have many opportunities to engage with problem solving throughout math workshop. Remember that it is not about the key words but rather the problem types!  Here are 5 ideas for the problem solving station.

#1 Do Word Problem Sorts where students have to sort the problems by types

#2 Have students solve problems using templates to scaffold their thinking

(example 1)

(bookmarks of models)

#3 Use math mats at all grade levels (students can make up all types of stories from addition/subtraction/multiplication/division/fractions and rations) (also look here under the different calculations for more mats) (and check out my math mats board) (also PROBLEM SOLVING BOOKS – CCSS ALIGNED BY GRADE)

#4  Definitely use CGI Resources (Just google CGI Math)

# 5 Use Math Playground Bar Diagramming Videos and Thinking Blocks Practice

P.S. Be sure to check out my Word Problem Pinterest Board for More ideas

P.S.S.  More Great Resources!

Happy Mathing,

Dr. Nicki

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4 Must Have Math Workstations: # 3 The Digital Workstation

Posted on July 30, 2013. Filed under: Common Core, Digital Learners, Math Centers, Math Workstations, virtual manipulatives | Tags: , , , , |

July 30, 2013

The students that we teach are known as “Digital Natives” by Prensky (2001). We on the other hand, are referred to as the “Immigrants.” They were born in the 21st century.  We were born in the 20th century.  We teach the way we learned.  So, many of us are still using 20th century ways to teach in the 21st century.  I am not suggesting that we throw out all of those ways.  But, WE MUST add to them.  We must expand our own repertoires of teaching.  We must learn some new ways.  We must step into the 21st century.

I had the honor of working with Heidi Hayes Jacobs for years at Columbia during the summers. She would always tell teachers to upgrade just 1 thing in their classrooms-  Just 1.  I think that works.  That way, we don’t become overwhelmed and and simultaneously we don’t underwhelm our students with our teaching.  Learn just 1 new thing that reflects that we live, learn and teach in the 21st century.

Here are 5 great sites to get you started!

#1: Have the students watch or make a glog: (check out the glogopedia to get ideas)

#2: Have the students watch or make an animoto as a hook into a lesson.

#3: Play games on Math PlaygroundCyberchase, BBC, Johnnie’s Homepage,Harvey’s HomepageMath Play

#4: Use virtual manipulatives (NLVMGlencoeMath Playground)

#5: Show education video clips to teach a concept (teacher tubeschool tubelearn zillionMath Playground) 

Happy Mathing,

Dr. Nicki

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Successful Strategies for Guided Math Groups: Nonlinguistic Representations

Posted on July 6, 2013. Filed under: Assessment, Common Core, Math Centers | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Marzano (2001) found that nonlinguistic strategies move student achievement.  This is exactly aligned with the mathematical practices – using models, representations, sketches, drawings, diagrams and pictures to name a few. Make sure that in each unit of study you use these items.  Here are a few examples to get you started (there are lots more on my Pinterest boards).

Math Sketches

Flip Books

Tape/Bar Diagrams

Math Mind Maps

Thinking Math Maps

Happy Mathing,

Dr. Nicki

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4 Must Have Workstations

Posted on June 24, 2013. Filed under: Common Core, Digital Learners, Math Centers, Math Workstations, Problem Solving | Tags: , , , , , |

There are a variety of workstations that you can set up throughout the year.  But, there are 4 must have workstations that you should set up all year long. Why?  Because these workstations allow students to engage in distributed practice throughout the year on the basic skills and content for their grade level.  I am going to list the stations below and during the next couple of weeks. I will write extensively about these stations and how to use them.

Workstation 1:  Fluency – You need a fluency station that is leveled and allows students to review facts they know and practice facts that they are working on.

Workstation 2: Word Problems- Remember in the CCSSM there are specific word problem types assigned to each grade level.  Do you currently take this into account?  Do you know what types your students have proficiency with?

Workstation 3: Vocabulary – Math is a language.  If you want your students to speak it, they must know the words and phrases.

Workstation 4: Digital – Our students are called Digital Natives and we are called the Immigrants by Prensky(2001).  How is this reflected in your math workstations.

I look forward to a wonderful discussion about workstations with you in the next couple of  weeks!

Happy Mathing,

Dr. Nicki


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Math Workstations: Component 4 (Academically Rigorous)

Posted on June 6, 2013. Filed under: Assessment, Common Core, Guided math, Math Workstations, RTI, Test prep | Tags: , , , , , , |

Math workstations should be academically rigorous.  One way, (a very important way I might add) is to use the DOK Framework.  If you are teaching the CCSSM, both assessment agencies (PARCC and Smarter Balance) are framing activities around this framework.  As the NYC website notes:

Webb’s Depth of Knowledge (DOK) provides a vocabulary and a frame of reference when thinking about our students and how they engage with the content. DOK offers a common language to understand “rigor,” or cognitive demand, in assessments, as well as curricular units, lessons, and tasks. Webb developed four DOK levels that grow in cognitive complexity and provide educators a lens on creating more cognitively engaging and challenging tasks.

Here are a few DOK resources: (Download the free samples)

I plan to do a whole series of posts on DOK soon.  In the meantime, just know that DOK is the framework used for rigor in the CCSS.  It is very important to consider this framework as you  look at units of study, individual lessons, workstations, guided math lessons and performance tasks.

Happy mathing,

Dr. Nicki

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Math Workstations: Component 3 (Standards Based)

Posted on May 24, 2013. Filed under: Assessment, Common Core, Math Centers, Math Workstations, Mathematical Proficiency | Tags: , , , , , |

Math Workstations should be standards-based.  By that I mean that every single one of the stations should be connected with a standard.  In the beginning of the year, many of the initial math workstations will be a review of the prior year’s standards.  As the year progresses, you will make workstations based on the current grade level. Sometimes, for your expert level students, who may be working above-grade level, you might do a vertical compacting workstation where you put activities from the next set of standards in the learning progression.

Students should be aware of the standards they are working on in the Math Workstation.  It should be as clear as day.  I recommend that you put the “I can statement” (a student-friendly version of the standard) written right on the portable math workstation or pasted somewhere near that particular workstation. If students know where they are going, they are much more likely to get there!

When you confer with your students, you can talk about where they are on the learning progression, from their point of view and yours:)  Christine Mulgrave-King (2010) refers to this a student ownership of their learning (see her work at

Happy Mathing,

Dr. Nicki

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Math Workstations: Component 2 (Differentiation)

Posted on May 22, 2013. Filed under: Common Core, Differentiated Instruction, Math Centers | Tags: , , , , , |

First of all, Math Workstations are data-driven.  Second, they are differentiated. After-all, you have to do something with that data.  It is one thing to collect data, it is another to analyze, interpret and then provide learning experiences based on the data.  What do you currently do with  your data?  Put it in a binder and on the shelf? How do  you USE it?  Key word here, USE… 

Data should directly inform what children are doing in math workstations.  Everybody shouldn’t be doing the same thing in a math workstation…otherwise it is just like doing whole group instruction (everybody at the same time doing the same thing) in small groups…with no attention to individual student needs.

Math workstations are about children engaging in purposeful practice in their zone of proximal development.  

Math workstations are not busy work.

Math workstations are engaging but more.  

Math workstations are directly connected to where the student is on his/her learning journey.

So, that means that in the Fluency Center…students are working on activities that help them achieve mastery where they are and help them to move onto the next level.  Some students might be working on make ten facts, others might be working on doubles and still others might be working on adding 7’s,8’s and 9’s.  In the Word Problem Center, some students might be working on Take From Change Unknown problems and others might be working on Part Part Whole Part Missing Problems.  In the place value center, some students might be building numbers with base ten blocks, others might be drawing out representations and others might be working on expanded form with styrofoam cups (at an abstract level).

Now, just ease your way into it!  Don’t try to differentiate everything at once or you’ll get overwhelmed and not do any of it.  Start slow, start with a plan…just start!

Happy Mathing,

Dr. Nicki




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Math Workstations: Component 1

Posted on May 20, 2013. Filed under: Assessment, Common Core, Differentiated Instruction, Mathematical Proficiency | Tags: , , , |

Math workstations first and foremost are data-driven. Data is collected at many different times throughout the year and in many different forms.

Data Collection Opportunities and Formats:
Beginning of the year Benchmark Data (Beginning of the year data that assesses what children have learned in prior years AND retained).
This is especially important in terms of determining fluency and word problem levels, as well as general knowledge.

Mid-year Benchmark Data  (Assesses mid-year learning)

End of the year Benchmark Data (Assess what has been learned during the year)

Pre-Assessment of Upcoming Chapter (Especially important to determine the skills in that particular domain from prior grades…it gives you a starting point and a marker for what you are going to build upon. Also in the pre-assessment you want to check what will be taught in the chapter to see if some students already know it so you can better differentiate the instruction).

Guided Math Notes (What is happening in the guided math group?  What have you noticed?  What are the areas of strength and the areas of challenge?)

Conference Notes (What are the students personal learning goals? What goals have you set together?)

Chapter Quizzes (In progress monitors)

Entrance/Exit Slips (These give great in the moment information)

Math Thinking Notebook Work (What kind of work is the student doing?)

Math Workstation Artifacts (Recording sheets at math workstations.  What does the work show?)

Chapter Assessment (Did the student learn the math taught in the chapter? What is the student’s strengths and challenges?)

You should also have an articulated plan for assessing fluency and word problem levels periodically throughout the year.

Happy Mathing,

Dr. Nicki



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