Monday, March 10, 2014

Arrow Cards Are The Best

This morning I watched one of my student teachers teach a wonderful lesson on place value to a group of first grade students using arrow cards. According to the new Common Core Standards for Maths first graders are required to be able to count, say and read numbers up to 120. The Arrow Cards are a perfect way of teaching both the procedural and conceptual knowledge associated with this skill. The really neat thing about this lesson was that Amy had made a set of Arrow Cards for each student in the class (sometimes, college room-mates can come in handy especially as there is a large amount of cutting out required). Amy used the Arrow Card model I developed which reduces significantly the amount of cutting required. (To make the "arrows" cut diagonally across the black square on each card).  There's also an interactive on-line arrow card activity but it doesn't seem as good as actually having the number cards in your hand to work with. Here's a paper on Arrow Cards I wrote several years ago

It was really neat to watch the students get their own set of Arrow Cards. The first thing many of them did was to count through them, first by ones, then by tens and then by 100s. The full set also include 1000s but 100s is enough for first grade.

There are two interesting discussion point about using arrow cards. One involves color coding the cards and the other has to do with including a 00 card that some people like to include. As far as color coding goes I would rather keep all the cards in one set the same color. I think this focuses the students' attention on the numbers and not on the colors. If all the ones were one color and all the tens were another color the students would focus on the color and not the numerals. I do like to make the sets in different colors so that children sitting next to each other will not get their sets mixed together.
As for the 00 card I don;t think it is necessary as it is not a real number and students seem to manage fine without it.

The moist important thing to remember when teaching place value is to treat 0 as a number and not use that terrible term "place holder". Every number is really a place holder!