An 1870's Classrom Meets Common Core: Drilling Math Facts & a Game of What's Wrong with This Answer?

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SWBAT drill 6's and 7's fluently and be able to identify errors in multiples of ten using multi-digit algorithms.

Big Idea

This great, but simple lesson takes us back to the late 1800's as we drill facts and play a game where students create mistakes in multiplication problems involving multiples of 10 that their classmates have to identify and explain.

Drill: A trip back into time.

20 minutes

A Blast from the Past: Where History Meets Mathematics:

Today was the day that we reenact a classroom of the late 1800's in coincidence with our state history studies and Laura Ingalls Wilder's literature. We dress up. I have a potbelly stove ( made out of paper) in my classroom. We use only the lights and the heat for our technology...and of course the whiteboard has replaced the chalkboard.

Students are seated in chairs in front of the whiteboard. Boys are divided from girls. I put naughty children in corners, acting out a proper school teacher's role ( really strict)...and make them memorize, drill and perform.  They ask to use the outhouse and fill the wood stove when it gets cold. I have a school bell I welcome them with and wear appropriate dress.

Later in the day, we play jacks, marbles, checkers, make ornaments, greeting cards and eat Wisconsin foods like wild rice and cranberries. I had brought in some antique dolls and had a retired community member come in to read while she shared her antique toys, quilts and Swedish traditions.

They loved it!

Opening: We used white boards ( tiles) on our laps with markers as "slates". I asked them to write their sixes and eights on the white board and drill them silently. These two math facts are the weakest for my students. They need to be more fluent. I told them I was going to make them recite their facts much like they did a hundred or so years ago. ( Actually, I was made to do this back in the 70's. )

They were appalled. Here is a couple of clips of our recitations! While Drilling the Girls, we can see them trying very hard to stay on top of their facts. They are just a little uncomfortable, but we can see how they can do it. It made me wonder if this type of drilling is good, since they are a competitive bunch. in the Perfect Drill, these boys ace it calmly. They are a little fearful because I think they don't really know what to think about this trip back in time quite yet!

This was a fun opening to a day in an 1870's classroom.

What's Wrong with This Problem? A little game that makes them face the meaning of multples of 10's.

25 minutes

What's Wrong with This Problem?

( This photo shows the board and how students were working today without technology).

I needed to attack the issues I saw when I reviewed their estimation work from the day before regarding multiples of tens. I noticed that they still aren't reasoning and looking at their estimated answers and comparing the exact answers. I also noticed that many were using area model to solve multiples of ten, even though I had taught a lesson about multiples of ten several days ago.

So what do you do when your student's don't make the connection? In this transition, I see this a lot. I had to come up with a way of making it their responsibility to figure it out. What better way to do it than to make them come up with the wrong answers and have their peers solve the right answers? This was a blast! Short, simple and a whole lot of fun! No technology involved. It fit right in with our theme today and supported the standard!

 Start the Thinking: I asked students to come to the board and create a "tens" multiplication problem. I started the first one and purposely wrote the wrong answer. I got reaction right away. They could see that  400 x 50 was not 200.

Then things got quiet when I asked them to explain "why" it was wrong. To my amazement, one of the students who didn't solve them correctly the day before beautifully stated " You didn't multiply by enough tens." We fixed the problem together by pulling out the tens, multiplying the basic fact and then multiplying. They could respond with "Associative Property" when I asked them why I could move the numbers around to multiply.


Pass the Pen: I handed the girl who answered me the pen to have her make up the next one. And so, we rotated students, discussing, critiquing and supporting each incorrectly answered problem that each student wrote.

I realized that this type of game brings their thinking to the front. I plan on doing more of it later! It's great! They extended themselves to 3 digit by 2 digit tens multiplication, and got very brave at it! So I saw products of 200 x 400, 50 x 300, etc.

They were engaged in this game and jumping at the chance to be the next one. One lower end student wrote 9x9=51. She missed the concept of multiples of tens completely. I left it alone and hushed the class from criticizing her. Another student solved it and we moved on.She realized it and was on task after she and I quietly discussed what she had done.

One of the things I love about Common Core is the Math Practice Standards. This game and lesson supports MP3 that guides us to set up our teaching and classroom environments to make it a safe place to involve ourselves of critiquing one another. What better way to learn than from each other? Math suddenly becomes a living thing that connects our learning to one another, rather than a "cold, right or wrong", "dumb or smart" feeling that many of us in the past have experienced!

A Peek in the Classroom:

 Counting our tens :This little clip shows a student who is not quite confident yet about his mastery of multiples of ten. I guided him through supporting his thinking. His face lit up when we were done. I live for that! Still difficulties with finding place value and commas...shows us that students, even though they are multiplying correctly, still can lose sight of place value and the periods when numbers get large. This young man cried, not because of how I was teaching, or the scenario because he offered to come up and solve the answer, but because he struggles so with place value. He struggles with left over feelings that he must have experienced in the past about math. His classmates comforted him, and applauded him when he got the commas in correctly and read the number aloud. I was pleased in seeing this type of support.

CCSS allows us to create this safe learning environment and hopefully enriches those who lack confidence.


No homework practice today! It's Christmas break! I will assign this review sheet when we get back!Multiples of Ten and Explanation.pdf