As an elementary teacher, especially the past few years being an elementary math coach, I have become accustomed to using tools such as base ten blocks, rekenreks, counters, beads and other things of that nature to help students make sense of numbers and operations. I’ve seen firsthand the tremendous growth students show in understanding when they use the tools to help identify patterns, create written representation and make conjectures about the mathematics.

As I’ve been going through the GA Frameworks for 7th grade to help me make sense of the 7th grade standards, I noticed the occasions of using manipulatives are not as frequent as they are in elementary. So I thought what better way to hit multiple birds with a really huge stones. Why not marry the two, elementary manipulatives with middle school concepts.

Let’s take for example, the addition and subtraction of integers. What’s the go to manipulative with that? Two colored counters! There are common misconceptions that come along with using the counters only. Not fully understanding zero pairs or when subtracting removing the counters instead of bringing in zero pairs are ways this tool hinder student understanding. Why not instead use a modified rekenrek as explained in my insertion into this frameworks task.

To connect quantity of integers, movement on a number line and patterns of adding and subtracting integers, why not use a bead string.

I even found a way to sneak in a number talk into a unit on operations with rational numbers.

I saw it as a great opportunity to remove the warm up problems prominent in upper grades and insert a chance to have discussions about strategies as we do quite often in elementary.

I’m feeling more comfortable with this content, more at home with my conceptual way of thinking.