I was recently reminded of the Number of the Day routine from Jenny Orr and her first graders.
In Chapter One of my book I talk about number sense routines being a daily part of my math workshop structure, but I hadn’t done many Number of the Day routines this year. I decided the time was right for some of these. While the charts of our conversations and thinking only show part of the picture, here’s what they looked like:
One of my mathematical purposes in using Number of the Day is to get into conversations about how numbers can be composed (built from their small parts) and decomposed (broken apart from the whole into their small parts). The conversations about “breaking a number apart” and “putting it together” were really powerful.
“Seven can be four and three and it’s still seven. Like four fish and three dogs. It’s all seven animals.”
I also asked them (idea from resource below). When would this number be really small? When would this number be really big? At first they weren’t really sure what I was talking about.
“How about if you draw a really big 5?” (see chart). That would be big.”
Then through multiple experiences with this routine over several days (that’s the power of routines!) they expanded and deepened their thinking.
“If someone had eight houses all for himself, that would be big. Eight marshmallows can fit in your hand. That’s a small eight.”
“Seven dinosaurs would fill the room. But seven tiny rocks is small.”
Exploring ideas of decomposing/composing number and relative magnitude of numbers has broadened their understanding of how numbers work. And it’s a simple routine they love doing for five minutes a day over a period of several days. We’ll be returning to this routine many times throughout the year.
For more on this routine, check out Jessica Shumway’s book, Number Sense Routines, where she writes about using and expanding upon this routine for children in grades K-3.