When updating my hands-on algebra product over spring break, I was reminded of a great tip for organizing a common math tool many of us use. Several summers ago, Courtney and I attended and in-district 3-day workshop with Angela Andrews. Angela is an expert in early math and offered an abundance of useful information and strategies.
Just want to share a great tip Angela gave us for organizing a math tool many of us use with students, Unifix cubes (or linking cubes). Angela suggested not only putting Unifix cubes in groups of ten (which many of us already do), but she also suggested using two
different colors to show groups of five (see picture below). The reason for this is quite simple, yet powerful.
As students progress in their understanding of number, the tools must progress with them. When Unifix cubes are separated and stored in a tub all mixed together, students who want to use them for modeling must count them one-by-one. For example, a second grader may choose Unifix cubes to represent a “situation”, but when he/she has to count them individually he/she is reverting back to an earlier stage of development. By organizing cubes in groups of five (two different colors) to make up ten, that second grade student can easily see five and add on. In this way, when he/she wants to show a value such as 12, using Unifix cubes/linking cubes, the use of this tool becomes much more appropriate and efficient.
Organize cubes into groups of ten with two different colors (5 of one and 5 of another). This will eliminate one-to-one counting of cubes that may not
be desired and requires students to use their understanding of 5 and 10.
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