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Tuesday Teacher Tips: Using the Snap Block Teacher Tool

Welcome to the Tuesday Teacher Tips series! Each week we’ll highlight teaching and learning resources, ideas to use in the classroom, as well as things to ponder as you go about your teaching day.

I’m always looking for ways to build number sense skills with my students. Lately I’ve been using one of DreamBox Learning’s virtual manipulatives, Snap Blocks, with my students during our Math Starter time. This quick 5-10 minutes is meant to get my students engaged in thinking mathematically before we start on the math lesson; it’s my warm-up and stretching activity.

When I introduced the Snap Blocks, we started out with level 1, so that the class could learn how to use the tool and everyone could achieve success. At the top of the screen a mathematical equation is displayed. For example, 5 + 5 + 7 + 4 = 10 + 10. The students calculate the answers for both sides of the equal sign and decide if the equation is true or false.

I encourage everyone to use mental math to figure it the problem. When they have an answer they give me a thumbs-up signal if they think it’s a true equation, and a thumbs-down if they think it’s false.

I invite one student up to the interactive whiteboard to move the Snap Blocks to the correct trays to prove if it’s a true or false equation. Blue blocks are moved to the blue tray and green blocks to the green tray. The student explains what their strategy was in solving the equation. For example, “I know that 5 + 5 = 10, which is one of the numbers on the other side of the equal sign. So then I know this is not a true equation, because 7 + 4 equals 11 and the only other number left on the other side is a 10.” When students are finished moving the cubes, I ask them to read the final equation, “21 does not equal 20.”

For those students who are not ready to use mental math, when the problem is flashed on the board I quickly write the equation in their notebook and let them solve it with paper and pencil. My ultimate goal is for them to develop the strategies to solve it mentally. For students who struggle with number sense or mental math, I try to find time to work with them in small groups either on the interactive white board or at the teacher computer, so they can physically move the Snap Blocks for every equation.

What are some ways you use Snap Blocks with your students? Let us know. We’d love to hear about them!