Let’s Talk Math Strategies


Let’s Talk Math Strategies

My second-grade students are asked to fluently add and subtract within 100 when using strategies based on place value, properties of operations, and/or the relationship between addition and subtraction per CCSS 2 NBT.5. Was that a mouthful? It’s a lot of words to explain how one can use different place value strategies when adding and subtracting two-and-three-digit numbers. This approach is a big departure from the kind of math I was taught when I was my students’ age.

Relaxation Strategies for Learning

I’d like to introduce you to some of the different elements that go into educating the minds of these young seven-year-olds. In distance learning, it is paramount that the students are able to tell me what their readiness is to learn. We accomplish this through an emotional check-in. After a quick temperature check of the anxiety level the class has moving into the lesson, we center by taking a predetermined and preferred brain break. Some students may snap their finger 50 times while counting to 50. Others take three breaths or say a personal mantra. These strategies are intended to release discomfort and refocus students’ minds to tackle some math concepts that may cause stress due to the nature of trying something that is new. We acknowledge our present emotional state, regulate by using a practiced coping strategy, and then turn our centered attention toward receiving the lesson.

Math Teaching Strategies

If you’re ready now, take some breaths and I will introduce you to some of the strategies that a young seven-year-old wrestles with daily in second grade.

  1. The first one is the number bond strategy. This is formally known as a fact family. Students take the knowledge learned in first grade and really put it to work when adding and subtracting two-and-three-digit numbers as seen in the photo of circled number groupings.
  2. The next strategy is a ten frame. This common tool was first introduced in kindergarten to train students to readily see a number when it is organized in a consistent predictable pattern. In second grade, students use the ten-frame to help them organize their place value discs when using the hundreds, tens, and ones’ chart per the HTO (Hundreds, Tens, Ones Place Value) photo.
  3. The last most widely used strategy is the number line as shown in the photo. Specifically, we use an open or empty number line.

Number Bond Strategy


HTO Place Value Chart


Number Line

Student Solving Options

The purpose of using multiple problem-solving strategies is to give each student a choice. This option empowers the student to take control of whatever strategy they feel they will be efficient using. We define efficiency in math as being quick, easy to use, and that gets us to the right answer most of the time. Students prefer using the number line because it is easy to use and has a high success rate. Secretly, I think they love it because they don’t have to do the standard addition or subtraction algorithm.

There you have it. Three different strategies second graders are using to conquer the common core state standard of adding and subtracting numbers to 100 using strategies based on place value.

Much success exploring math solutions with your children!


Copyright (c) 2021 by GenParenting

How to Help Our Elementary Children Learn Online and Write Stories

How to Help Our Elementary Children Learn Online and Write Stories

Many parents and students continue to struggle with remote learning. As a substitute teacher/tutor for second grade students using the Google classroom platform, I provide literacy writing units for students and tutor them in reading and writing. I also help students understand how to use their preferred learning styles when tackling difficult subjects. For example, one of our students loves to sing her math solutions. Other students love to calculate math solutions. Still others write and describe the steps to solving math problems as they complete the computations. When teaching students how to write about a topic, we provide students with options on how they can complete their assignments.

Writing Tips for Students

Here is an example on how students can own their writing successes on learning about the Air Quality Index (AQI) based on our newly published Student-Engaged Assessment: Strategies for All Learners book:

  1. The teacher lists the reading and writing learning intentions and academic standards that are being used for a writing activity on how to use the Air Quality Index in their daily lives.
  2. Students read and discuss a story about the assigned topic. They can learn about extreme weather and how thunder and lightening storms can create fires and smoky air that is hazardous to their health. They can also learn how to create an evacuation plan for their family and how to read the Air Quality Index each day before going outside to play.
  3. Three options are provided on how students can create a reflective five sentence paragraph about the story. They can (1) draw a picture and then write a story, or (2) draw a series of pictures that illustrate the story and then write a sentence under each picture to complete their paragraph, or (3) use the voice dictation feature on their computer and then edit the story.
  4. Students will write a reflective paragraph that can include the following sentences:
    1. A sentence that introduces the topic
    2. A sentence that describes how they can use the Air Quality Index in their daily life
    3. An example of what they can do outside with the knowledge that the air is safe
    4. A second example of how they can use the Air Quality Index for outside activities
    5. A concluding sentence about they learned and the importance of the Air Quality Index in their daily lives
  5. Students review an example paragraph or write as a class an example paragraph that includes the #4 sentence prompts.
  6. After students write their own paragraphs, they can read them to the class and reflect on these questions:
    1. What did you learn today?
    2. What worked for you when completing this activity?
    3. What did not work for you?
    4. How will you use this activity for other learning assignments?
    5. How can you use this activity in daily life?

Much success as you support your children’s writing successes!

Mary Ann

Understanding Our Children’s Preferred Learning Styles for Academic Success

Understanding Our Children’s Preferred Learning Styles for Academic Success

When I tutor students in the Goggle classroom, I listen and watch them carefully as they describe how they prefer to learn when reading and writing. For example, one student may describe how she gains lots of information about a story by looking at the pictures in the story first. Another student may want to write down his answer about what he just read before summarizing the story in two sentences. A third student may prefer drawing pictures or acting out the story before discussing or writing a story.

Most teachers consider students’ various learning styles when working with individual students. Below are five primary learning styles described in Data Driven Differentiation in the Standards-Based Classroom by Gayle H. Gregory and Lin Kuzmich:

  1. Linguistic learners like to write, play word games, learn vocabulary, debate, and create jokes.
  2. Musical learners love to sing, create tunes and rhymes, and make a song as part of a solution.
  3. Logical/mathematical learners problem solve through abstract reasoning with numbers, formulas, patterns, puzzles, and data.
  4. Visual/spatial learners draw pictures, solutions, and models with color and media.
  5. Body/kinesthetic learners use gestures, actions, and act out to demonstrate learning.

Help for Students and Parents

When students and their teacher understand how they like to learn, they can work together to determine how the students can best show what they have learned during a given assignment. During parent-teacher conferences, the teacher can help parents reinforce their children’s learning at home by discussing a student’s preferred learning style.

Reinforcing Learning at Home

As we reinforce our children’s preferred learning styles at home, we validate each child as a successful learner. We can then help each child expand his or her ability to learn first by using a preferred learning style to demonstrate learning. Then we can encourage our child to use other learning styles for problem solving. Many teachers also encourage students to show their work when using several different learning styles. For example, teachers may have students demonstrate their writing skills by illustrating their stories (visual leaners), writing their stories (linguistic learners), peer editing stories (logical and linguistic learners) and then discussing the stories with the class (linguistic learners).

Much success as you reinforce your children’s learning styles at home and encourage them to expand their use of other learning styles to strengthen their learning abilities.

Mary Ann



The Middle School Distance Learning Experiment

The Middle School Distance Learning Experiment

A three-part reflection series on parenting middle schoolers during the pandemic on the home front, facing political realities with pre-teens, and practical considerations regarding school re-opening.

My youngest daughter entered 6th grade with the distance learning model in the Fall of 2020 and I am now the parent of two daughters in middle school. Having been a middle school classroom teacher for ten years, I’m well aware of the typical middle school experience for adolescents. Granted, middle school is already a life-changing experience for students in and of itself, but having to experience it during a pandemic is uncharted territory for everyone – parents and students alike. Talk about a paradigm shift! Indeed, this is the great middle school distance learning experiment!

Distance Learning Advantages

My objective is for my daughters to overcome adversity in the face of challenges, so I spoke with them about the disadvantages and advantages of distance learning. My hypothesis is that by focusing on and managing the advantages, we could be optimistic that distance learning would bring positive learning outcomes, namely that the girls would be more independent learners.

Acknowledging that there are external factors out of our control, we also decided that there would be a great number of factors that are in our control that will affect the nature of the girls’ learning outcomes. We have employed the following strategies to support independent learning:

  1. We have agreed that the girls will stick with a consistent time to wake up in the morning and log on to their classes on time.
  2. The girls have their own dedicated learning space and they have access to all the learning materials provided by the school.
  3. Screen time is a given for school and homework time, but extra screen time for media and hanging out with friends is a privilege to be earned after finishing their studies and other daily responsibilities.
  4. For my 6th grader, the transition to middle school meant managing assignments from six different classes. I did a daily homework check with her until her progress report card, then evaluated whether we needed to continue with daily homework checks, weekly homework checks, or go to an “as needed” basis.
  5. For my 8th grader, taking ownership for her grades and the outcome of her learning is key for high school preparation. We decided that any communication with her teachers needed to be student initiated. If she had a question about a graded assignment, or if she needed clarification about a project, she would need to take the first step towards change, whether that meant attending the student support hour, posting a question on Google Classroom, or writing an email to the teacher.
  6. For both girls, we decided that they would consult one other resource before asking a parent when they needed help on their homework. The one other resource could be the student help from the textbook resource page online, it could be attending office hours with the teacher, it could also be looking up a video for explanation, or calling a friend to work out the assignment.

Taking Responsibility for Their Own Learning

So far, both girls have risen to the challenge of taking responsibility for their own learning and have adapted quickly to the distance learning format. They have gotten into a routine and have formed good homework habits. This experiment is going well so far. We’ll have to see how it progresses as the school year continues.

As we approach mid-year and the question of returning to school in person keeps coming up, we still have to consider a few questions:

  1. Is it safe enough on a middle school campus for students to maintain social distance?
  2. What are the risk factors for a middle school campus where students change classrooms six times a day and mix with different students and teachers throughout the day?
  3. Now that students have adopted distance learning routines, would it be disruptive to transition to a hybrid learning model?
  4. Are there special learning needs or other services that can only be provided in an in-person school environment?
  5. Is there evidence of learning loss?
  6. Do we have internet access issues at home?
  7. Are students being deprived of social interaction?

There is much to consider and many families will need to think about what will be in their children’s best interest.

Best wishes to you as we continue the distance learning experiment,


Copyright © 2020 by GenParenting


Community Services Through Project-Based Distance Learning

Community Services Through Project-Based Distance Learning

COVID-19 Leadership Challenges for College Ready Students: Part 3 of 3

Students’ community service projects and grantwriting can support project-based distance learning activities. Teachers can advise students on how writing a grant for a new project satisfies specific common core standards in language arts and mathematics. For example, high school students must write fluently in fact-based research to meet language arts standards. Students must also master statistical analysis per math standards when justifying program needs statements and a program’s evaluation. And a grant project’s budget development and budget monitoring will satisfy various math standards. The Student-Engaged Assessment book by Laura Greenstein and Mary Ann Burke explains how students and teachers can document learning processes that meet academic standards through student owned assessment portfolios.

Opportunities for Scholarship Awards

Student program developers and grantwriters can document their leadership activities in their college applications and when writing their college application essays. Many of these students will qualify for scholarship awards based on their leadership and the project’s overall impact in communities. And the projects will provide essential services to community members.

May these community services impact your children’s growth and support community members’ needs.

Mary Ann

Copyright (c) 2020 by GenParenting