As the students walk in from lunch, I declare, “It’s MATH TIME! Should we do our Number Line Dance to start?”
The students reply, “Yes!” I try to get ambitious, and I play the mostly instrumental “Cupid Shuffle” that I downloaded from the internet. I’m not a dancer, and my musical skills are well, shall I say, considered “AMAZING” in kindergarten. (Yes, ANYTHING can be considered “AMAZING” in kindergarten, I know, I know!) It takes about 30 seconds before I pick up the beat enough to start singing and dancing, but my dance partners wait anxiously. It’s an awkward mess for any observer, but we are singing and dancing to our “Addition Number Line Shuffle”—conveniently before the actual “Cupid Shuffle” begins the verse about “To the left!” which would totally defeat the purpose!
“At your tables, you will find transportation counters: boats, buses, trains, and a few planes. Please choose one in the color of your choice, and PLAY. That’s right! You have 2 minutes to PLAY with your vehicle!” I dismiss them to their tables, and a couple particularly goofy little guys grin to each other as if to say, “Is this for real? Do we really get to dance and play for math?” Absolutely. Some things are just required in kindergarten... especially when stuff will get tricky for some friends pretty quickly.
“You will have 1 more minute to drive your vehicles,” I announce after a minute or two of play time. It is so much better to let the kiddos play before the toys are needed to be tools, than it is to fight playing during a lesson. If a super playful buddy persists, I gently remind, "You already had play time, silly! Now it's amazing math time!"
Using the document camera, I project our “Driving Down the Number Line” page. I put my yellow bus on the page. “Where should I start?” I ask.
I call on a student who says, “At zero.”
We go through the first problem on the page, with students “talking me through” every step. I don’t just ask the confident kids who have their hands raised, I call on kids who I have been watching and working with the past several number line lessons.
“Are you ready for your papers?” I ask with excitement. (I almost never give papers out when I am going over directions. It’s just too easy to try to jump ahead or write a name or somehow get focused on something other than the directions!)
We walk through the entire first half of the page in that step-by-step manner, so we are all literally “on the same page.” We shift our vehicles into “Reverse” to back them up to 0 in between problems.
When it seems like some of my wiggliest friends are beginning to fidget, I get us doing “karate chop” addition as we solve each problem. Once we write in the sum, we stand up together, show the numbers that we’re adding, cross our arms to show the plus sign and then make our forearms parallel to make “equals” before showing the sum with our fingers. Moving is a good thing!
There is a second side of the activity that would normally be our independent practice, with low-number (0-3) number cubes to roll and show on the number line. My class does not get this option because the nurse comes in to announce that she needs to do hearing and vision screenings.
I tell her I need a few minutes, and I turn the right side of the page into our independent practice. It isn’t ideal, but I really want to know if the kids are finally “getting it,” and sure enough, it looks like it’s beginning to click! I watch the confused kiddos most closely, and sure enough, their little vehicles are moving left to right, and they are stopping in the proper places!
I notice the two students who still seem to struggle with the number line, and I realize that each student is not keeping their vehicle even with the little lines on the number line. I specifically point out the lines for the students, and I watch to make sure that the front of the vehicle is even with the lines on the number line. Could it be that this tricky concept is really making sense?! Wow!
Of course, the closing is cut short, but we drive our vehicles back to park them in the “parking lots” on the tables. I start my conversation “hints” saying things like, “Friends, it looks like we are really understanding adding on… what’s that thing again?”
I call on a student who says, “Number Line!”
When asked about their favorite part of the activity, students say they like the cars. I had a feeling they would like that, I confess.
“Is it making more sense?” I ask, almost as if I’m asking them to confide some big secret, and the students answer “Yes.” One little guy says, “I was already good at this stuff!”