So my class is struggling with addition using a number line. Not a few kids, once in awhile… a big CHUNK of my class, pretty much every time a number line gets mixed into the fun of addition. It’s killing me. I’m losing sleep, racking my brain, biting my nails, trying to find something that will make this concept accessible to more of my little turkeys.
Then it hits me, in the middle of a “brain break” between our lit study and math. “The Cupid Shuffle!” I should explain: we have a lot of students with really large families and lots of weddings and quiceneras. Many of the festive events take place for a minimal rental fee in my school’s cafeteria, and there are more weekends than I’d like to admit, where I’m working in my classroom hearing “the Cupid Shuffle.” It’s big at my school, and well, it’s fun.
So we do a “kindergarten version” of “the Cupid Shuffle” for brain breaks (along with “the Chicken Dance,” “the Hokey Pokey,” and “the Macarena”). As I’m doing my best to rock out to the Cupid Shuffle, I get a flash of inspiration: Change the words of our happy, familiar song to help kids use the number line more efficiently!
So I begin to sing, “To the right, to the right, to the right, to the right! [We move right as we sing.] Not left, not left, not left, not left! [For this part, we stand still, shake our heads as if to say “No,” and cross our hands back and forth as if to say “No.”] Now kick, now kick, now kick, now kick! [We kick alternating feet in front of us each time we say “kick.] Adding on the number line, adding on the number line.”
I line up the little turkeys by the masking tape number line that I can’t bring myself to unpeel, and we sing and dance our new addition number line song. Even all crammed around that number line in our “meeting spot,” we are having FUN with this number line addition stuff! It’s so much fun, in fact, that we do our “Number Line Addition Shuffle” a few times.
Now, the test: I call up a kiddo who is clearly confused about addition on a number line. I tell him to start at 2, and he walks out with some confidence. I challenge him, “Show us plus 1.”
Goodbye, confidence! I can see the look in the little guy’s face, not sure where to go, so we start singing, “To the right, to the right…” and for the first time ever, he moves to the number 3—the correct number! Hallelujah!!! “2 + 1 = 3” we say, in unison.
I pick a little girl, who clearly had no idea how to properly use the number line to add when we last took a stab at this. I have her start at 1, and she steps out with a little shimmy. Oh, this is getting fun! “Show plus 3, please.” Now, last week, this girl would’ve gone to the number 3 and stood, completely forgetting that she was already standing on 1.
We begin singing, and she actually dances a little as she moves over 3—to the right, of course. I try to contain my exuberance as I ask her, “1 + 3 equals…?”
“4!” she announces, and we all let out a “Woo hoo!”
We sing and dance our number line addition shuffle as we kind of parade around the class, only going to the right, with students sitting down as we parade by their seats. (Some of the students after my own heart need a little reminder to actually stop dancing and sit down, but eventually, they all shuffle to their seats.)
With the document camera displaying the practice page on the screen, I say, “So we know this… the number line goes left to…” “Right!” the kids proclaim. (A few students quietly hum our song…)
We practice adding using the number line, with a page that progresses from a sum of 1 in consecutive order to a sum of 10. As we work together, I make sure students in all areas of the room are engaged and learning. When students have misconceptions, I quickly guide them back to the right direction. This can be tricky with confused students all over the classroom, but frequent circulation is helpful.
As we finish up, we notice that the answers begin at 2 and go all the way up to 10. I ask a wiggly kid to walk across the number line as we go over the answers. “2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10” we all say.
The second side of the page is another practice page with sums to five. I challenge the kids to use their number lines to solve the addition problems.
Quickly, it’s obvious who “has it” in terms of adding on a number line, and who has some significant confusion.
I pull a half–dozen confused kids to one group, and we go over every part of every question together, even going so far as using one specified color for each problem. For instance, “Get a yellow crayon and mark 2 to start.” It’s incredibly structured and teacher-directed to begin, but as we practice, I start seeking more & more input from the students at the table.
It appears that some of the misconceptions are being clarified, but a quick check in a day or two will really confirm if we are making the progress that I’m hoping we’re making.
We review our number line practice, but most important, we get up and practice our Addition Number Line Shuffle… one more time. I ask the kiddos how they like their Addition Number Line Shuffle, and one little girl says, “I’m going to teach my sister.” Another student adds, “My mom already knows this dance!” A few us ask, “Really, number line style?” Several students vow to teach their families how we do our dance in kindergarten. The families might think I am crazy, but that is okay! We are moving, singing, and beginning to understand some critical concepts!