Friday, April 14, 2006

Math Tiles

Part of the curriculum in my kids' school has them doing math tiles. D, who is in fifth grade and doesn't have them anymore, misses them. For M, it's the very best part of the week.

In math tiles, the student gets a card with math problems on it. Some numbers are filled in, some are blanks. They get tiles numbered 0 to 9 and they have to fill in the blanks. Each number can only be used once, and all blanks must be filled in.

When D first brought one home to do, I gave it a try. These were the first card of the first set. 2+2=4 level stuff.

I couldn't do it.

Granted, I gave up after the first try, when I had one tile left and it didn't fit. I said, "hey, I left first grade a long time ago" and handed it back to my kid.

So this week we had parent/teacher conferences, and M has finished set 3. Here are two cards from that set. Card 7 is the last addition card in the set; card 15 is the last subtraction card in the set. See how you do (you will have to write them out to line the numbers up right):

Card 7

__73 + 4__8 = 96__

439 + 2__3 = 71__

758 + 1__5 = 92__

__46 + 25__ = 8__5

Card 15

__0__ - 1__7 = 177

9__3 - __26 = 7__

60__ - 2__8 = 307

8__0 - __52 = 158

Warning: Insufferable Parent Bragging Alert (It's my blog, I can be insufferably proud if I want to)

The amazing thing about this math tiles achievement? My kid is SIX. And it's not just math (though she wrote "I'm all about math" on the back of one of her papers). She can spell "meteorologist" and read "compassion." She's well-behaved in class and has a ton of friends, who all so far seem to be really good kids (she's lucky, the teacher says she has a great class this year). She is excelling at soccer, which admittedly isn't hard when you're nearly 7 and have been playing with your older sister for three years, and are now being forced to play with kids in kindergarten who are just starting out. But she'll make a cut, and the whole crowd will go, "Ooh."

So far, none of this has gone to her head. She doesn't seek attention or have a superior attitude in class. When she scores a goal in soccer, she just runs back to her spot on the line; when a teammate scores, she jumps and cheers. Her teacher pointed out that she is humble, and it's a trait she will need. Our job, now, is to make sure she STAYS that way, while still striving to excel and be challenged in everything she does.

Lest anyone who has bothered to read past the Insufferable Parent Bragging Alert thinks I'm playing favorites, let me tell you about my fifth-grader. The one taking ALGEBRA next year. She's obviously not the only one in her class, but algebra wasn't even offered until I was in eighth grade. I'm thrilled that she gets this opportunity. She was the first kid in her class to top out on the school's computer math program, and is exploring some online programs to get her through the last two months of the year. She has straight A's, including in clarinet and cello (which she will play in a solo next month), and managed, in one class where she was the sole dissenting opinion, to convince half her class AND her science teacher to change their minds.

She plays soccer, too, and has been improving drastically on the field as well as in her interaction with her teammates. Her swimming instructor has said she'd like her to teach once she's through the entire Red Cross program.

Are my kids perfect? Hell, no. The other day, M said "oh, crap" when I scored a basket, then lied about it. D has a tendency to spend six hours cleaning half her room, taking a "break," and rebounding within days to being twice as messy as before. They're not prodigies, heading for college at age 12 or the symphony orchestra or professional soccer. They are typical siblings, bickering until Mommy goes insane, arguing when I say "no," offering one-word answers when asked about their day. And we're not into the teen years yet--I know we're in for a whole different relationship when we get there.

What they are is really good kids, with well-rounded interests, a drive to succeed, and respect for themselves and those with whom they interact. I am so thankful, every day, that I get to be their mom.


MaryF said...

That's awesome, Natalie! Now that testing is almost over, I'm going to try this with my class!

Natalie Damschroder said...

Mary, you might be able to get some materials from UCSMP Everyday Mathematics at

I've been really impressed with the curriculum since my district adopted it. It uses a spiral system, where the kids study certain concepts at various times during the year--like they might do some money for a few weeks, using pennies and nickels, then do time in hours and half hours, then shapes, then back to money adding dimes and quarters, then back to time adding quarter hours and five-minute increments, etc.

I'll post the link on your blog, too, in case you don't make it back here. :)

MaryF said...

Thanks so much for the link, Natalie! If I don't get by Lakeshore today, maybe I'll just order online.

AuthorM said...

You have such great kids. :)

Natalie Damschroder said...

Makes me the luckiest Mommy in the world. :)

Sid said...

I am a first grade teacher, by any chance do you know (or can you find out) where your child's teacher orders the math tiles. Thanks in advance!

Sid said...

I am a first grade teacher, by any chance do you know (or can you find out) where your child's teacher orders the math tiles. Thanks in advance!

Natalie J. Damschroder said...

Hi, Sid!

The teacher in question obtained the materials through the school, who had purchased the entire Everyday Math curriculum from the University of Chicago. You may be able to obtain individual materials directly from them. Here's the link:

UCSMP Everyday Mathematics at

Good luck!