For the majority of my students, soccer is part of the culture. Their dads play on men’s league teams that play in fields around town every Sunday afternoon. The kids wear the various team jerseys from the “big” teams in Mexico—Cruz Azul, America, etc. and the national jerseys from many South American countries are a particular source of pride during a World Cup year.
Even typical Americans become soccer fans during World Cup, and since Tim Howard, the US goalkeeper made a record-breaking 16 saves in one World Cup game, it makes sense (to me, a big soccer fan), to use soccer as the subject of this process-oriented activity. Really, any sort of substitution process could work.
“Girls and boys!,” I begin, “We decided we needed one more practice day before our assessment about different combinations to make numbers. Well, I found a FUN way to practice!”
Smiles & anticipation for the kindergarten crowd—we are off to a great start!
“Remember how some kids came to Room 6 and got forms to play soccer? [I work with our local youth soccer leagues to get scholarships for students from my school so they can afford to register.] “Well, our buddy Nikolas, some of you play soccer with him at recess—is on a soccer team, with uniforms and games and even snacks each week!”
A few students excitedly tell me that their dads, cousins, or uncles play on soccer teams, too. Some students tell me of their plans to register for soccer in fall. One student even reminds our class that I have some photographs of girls’ soccer teams with my pictures in the back of the room. [I coached soccer for years—the kids are so observant!]
“Well, on Nikolas’ team, every kid has to play—that’s one thing that’s different that how your dads and how the big people play soccer,” I note, projecting a picture of the starters for the US National Team. [Any team would work for this example. If you had students in your class who played soccer on a team & you could make it to one of their games, that would be ideal. This year, I didn’t have any soccer players from my class. I show a couple of soccer photos, like a US player and Goalkeeper Tim Howard.]
“We can’t have Nikolas’ whole team play at the same time, though, or it would be too crowded to do anything but run into each other! So they have something called substitutes, or subs. They even do on the professional teams!” I show a picture of the subs in their FIFA vests, which indicate that they are sitting out as substitutes.
Subs are very important, I say, with a quiet, serious voice. “Sometimes big people call them bench players—in all sports, really—but the bench players can make all the difference in the world!”
“So today, we’re going to show ways to make 5, subbing out the starting players, and subbing in the subs—we will do it one player at a time, like they do on Nikolas’s team!” [I make sure to indicate that this is how they use substitutes for youth soccer, because professional soccer limits their subs, and well, they would never do this. Some of my 5 year-olds might know FIFA soccer rules, so I clarify from the beginning!]
“This time, when we get our first row of 5 Unifix cubes, what will the cubes represent?” I ask.
I call on a student who announces, “Soccer players on Nikolas’ team!”
I acknowledge the correct response, repeating it and adding, “Your cubes will represent soccer players today!” tying in that we are modeling with Unifix cubes and representing the mathematical concept.
Similarly, we state that the other 5 Unifix cubes will represent the substitute players that we will be subbing in—one at a time—so that our team always has 5 players on the field, but all the players get to play.
Of course, even with careful planning, I forget to mention the difference between youth soccer and adult, and one of my super soccer fan says, “Oh, Ms. Novelli, shouldn’t we be making 11?” to which I respond, “Remember, we are making Nikolas’ team where 5 kids must always be playing.” Ahh, the things they know—it’s so fun!
We distribute our cubes, which have been pulled into groups of 5 of each color, so that it’s easy to get two sets of 5 to each student.
Since we have done this type of activity several times, and it is a review, I ask students to tell me what we should do next.
We pass out recording sheets, and everyone gets their “starting line up” of Unifix cubes, which we all set on the recording sheet squares. (Some kiddos actually name their players on the squares, which indicates their interest in the activity.) We are formatting in a way consistent with both our “restaurant” practice from the day before and our upcoming assessment for our report cards.
My recording sheet remains projected on the document camera onto “the big screen.” Students watch as I pull about my brown cubes (the same color as the FIFA vests from my photograph, earlier), and set them in a row away from the main row we’ll be working with to help us make our equations.
Again, we will work in a very systematic manner to replace our cubes, one at a time (MP.8).
As we move our first cube “out,” (sending him to get some water, someone notes), another student begins singing our old familiar silly song from months ago, “There were 5 in line, at the end some time—flip over! Flip over!” and again, students are happily flipping the far left cube out of the row with smiles.
I move the far left cube back from the row, similar to our systematic move-out & replace decomposing that we practiced months ago (MP.8). We talk about the importance of maintaining control of our math tools, and of course, our counting cubes are tools! (MP.5) We also discuss and model “flipping over,” and the importance of retaining big-kid control.
We talk about how it would not be fair if Nikolas’ team had fewer than the 5 allowed players on the field, which stresses the importance of replacement. After “subbing in” our first player, we count the cubes from “on the field,” getting 5 as our total.
I carefully ask students—particularly students not raising their hands—to tell me about the equations that note what we just modeled (MP.4).
Knowing we have done this before—just yesterday, in fact, I jump ahead to the Independent practice really quickly. I really want to know that the kids are solid with this procedural and conceptual practice, so I let them do their thing while I carefully circulate the room.
During this independent work time, I am moving all over the room, talking to students to check their procedural skill and their conceptual knowledge. With kiddos who are really solid with decomposing numbers, they’re explaining to me about how “4 + 1 really does get you the same total as 2 +3—they’re different ways to make 5,” while other students may not yet have that deep understanding but are gaining confidence with the procedural skill.
I work to engage every student in a quick chat during this independent work time, noting that they are all making progress, but they are progressing at individual levels. The key of course: every student is making progress.
After students put their Unifix cubes back into two rows, (one of each color) and our supplies are returned, we begin talking about our practice.
After a discussion about the process, keeping track of the numbers, and how things get easier the more we practice, the students tell me they are ready for the report card assessment. I smile and show them a victory picture of a player after scoring a goal and say with a wink, “That will be you after you do the assessment!”