I had the privilege to work with fourth and fifth grade teachers this week. We explored multiplicative comparison problems in fourth and division with fifth (more on those in another blog). What I came away with is this: NUMBER CHOICES MATTER.

We don’t get much choice on the concepts we teach, nor often on the program we have to use. But we do get to choose what numbers we use with children. This could make all the difference for kiddos. If we choose our numbers wisely, we can build understanding through the patterns they see, the differences that appear, and talk about why those differences happened.

For example, consider the following set of problems:What is the same about each? If I am thinking about this as a partitive model and using base 10 blocks, I am sorting the amount I am given into 3 equal groups each time.

What is different about each? The amount I am giving to each of the 3 groups.

In the first example, 36 can be created by using 3-tens and 6-ones, and each can be fairly shared without any problems. Each would get a ten and two ones, or 12.

In the second example, I can still give out a ten to each of the 3 groups, but now I have to figure out what to do with the leftover ten and eight ones. This one builds off the first example, but pushes students to think about exchanging (regrouping).

The final example builds off the 48, but leaves 2 left that students have to consider. This allows to have a conversation about remainders.

These three build understanding of division, regrouping and remainders through strategically chosen problems to build from one to the next. Students have something to grasp on to when negotiating meaning with this tough tough subject.

So where can you build understanding through your number choices? I challenge you to think about what you want your students to learn next week and how your number choices can contribute to students understanding those goals!!!!