“Remember these?” I begin, holding up a Rekenrek. Students smile and nod. A student says “Rek-en-neck” and I smile but state, “Close—Rekenrek! Let’s practice together—precisely—Rekenrek!”
All of the students repeat.
“We talked about how Rekenreks are tools, like ten frames (MP5). What’s important about tools?” I ask.
A few students offer explanations like tools help us do math and tools make math easier for us. I affirm all of their answers, as they all touch on a slightly different reason to use tools (MP.5). (As usual, several student voices are better than my single “teacher voice.”)
“I’m giving you two challenges today,” I present. “You will be showing the number you see on a ten-frame…with your Rekenrek! We will use two tools! Next, you will show what you build on your Rekenrek and write a number to match the number you build!” Are you up for my challenge?”
I use a free YouTube program that shows 10-frames quickly, projected for all of us on “the big screen” as students build the numbers on their Rekenreks at their tables. At first, I press the pause button frequently, giving everyone time to build, and also allowing me time to check for accuracy (MP.6).
We go through the program a second time, this time without the pause button, and I am amazed at the number of students who are subitizing incredibly quickly! I compliment them on their progress, making sure to mention “subitizing” and asking a student to clarify “showing numbers fast without counting!”
Next, I show a recording sheet from another free online resource with a line for beads to be drawn. I model coloring a number with little ovals for my white beads, and little red ovals for the red beads. Then I label the drawing to show the connection between the beads and the number that they represent (MP.2).
Students model the number that I demonstrated, and I circulate to see how their drawings look. Most students draw their ovals in varying sizes and have red ovals near the white ovals. A few students draw their ovals so large that the ovals cannot fit within the drawing of the Rekenrek. I remind those students that the rectangle on the recording sheet is actually a picture of a Rekenrek for their oval-shaped beads to fit inside (MP.4).
We continue to build and record numbers on our Rekenrek recording sheets. While some students need support and encouragement to represent their models with pictures, most students take their representations to a different level. When we draw numbers larger than 5, I ask students how many are white and how many are red, prompting them to say “5 and 1 is 6.” When they get really quick with their number combinations, I remind them that they are being fluent with their number combinations or addition.
Students collect Rekenreks and share their recording sheets with the group. When asked, (as I always tend to do), their favorite part of the lesson was rushing to beat the ten-frames on the video. Other students state with pride that they are getting really fast at showing their numbers or their number combinations, and we practice the term “fluent,” again stressing the need to be precise in math (MP.6).