Bright Idea: Math Intervention Idea

What’s that?  That’s right–it’s time for another…
As we have finished our preliminary math assessing on students, I have found several students who are missing some key number sense concepts–so it’s time to get to work!  I thought I’d share a super easy and effective tool I use with my students who are showing that they are not fluent with their number sequencing forward and backward.
“Huh?” you might ask.  By the time students get to third and fourth grade, we make a lot of assumptions about what they know and don’t know–and being able to count forward and backward is one of them.  When we started assessing this, we realized that many of our struggling students were missing some key concepts–and being able to count backwards was one of them.  When it comes to overall number sense and, especially, subtraction–the ability to fluently move forward and backward along a number line is crucial–especially when crossing the “decade”.
How can you assess it?  Just ask students to count for you!  Try starting at 17 and counting to 25…try starting at 54 and counting to 71…and then go backwards.  Try 15 down to 1.  Try 34 down to 19.  Try 78 down to 65.  Students should be able to do it with ease–if not, consider spending some time working on this fluency.  Would you believe that last year one of my students did not “use” 13?  She skipped over it completely when counting forward and backward.  This could cause a few problems, don’t you think?  Today I thought I’d share the first step that I take when I find a kiddo who is NOT fluent with their number sequences.
Step one–simply fold a piece of cardstock to make this contraption–it’s a folded piece with an extra “lip” to tuck the little doors in.  I hold the edges with paper clips so I don’t have to hold them.  Mine was a 12 x 18 piece of cardstock–and that lip is about 1 inch.
 I then cut more pieces of cardstock into 3 x 18 inch “trains” that I wrote number sequence on…first 1-8, then on the back of that one 4-12 (so it crosses the “10”), and so on…teen numbers.  Numbers in the 20’s…and so on.
 Then I work with my strugglers–only about 5 minutes each day.  I ask series of questions related to “before” and “after”.  I start by having the student flip a door…and then the questions are asked until all the doors are opened.  I don’t do all before or all after–I mix them up.  In fact, I don’t do the numbers in order–I might ask, “What number comes before 11?” and then follow it with “What number comes after 12?”  I want to be watching to see if they are confident and if they can do it without hesitation.  When I feel they are ready to move on, I make a new train with larger numbers–especially focusing on the decade numbers.
I even move into the hundreds to really check for solid understanding.  After we get really good, we start working on “What number is 2 before __?” and so on.  This strategy is great to use with counting by 10’s and 100’s as well.  
So…this is a great intervention for the upper grades or a teaching tool for primary grades.  It’s a great way to ease into similar work with a 100’s chart (or a 110’s chart) as well.