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Bigger IS Better - Life-Sized Interactive Number Lines!

Number lines can work wonders for helping students understand patterns and how numbers are arranged.

Comparing numbers and using the Greater Than, Less Than, or Equal To signs are often eye-openers for teachers in lower grades. But, upper elementary teachers are often unpleasantly surprised to learn that their students are struggling with basic number concepts.

When I notice students struggling to order numbers or identify the greater number, I know it's time to work with interactive number lines. And, in this case, I believe that BIGGER really IS better! I'm talking LARGE-sized, LIFE-sized number lines! Right there on the classroom floor!

In my classroom, I typically leave one or two number lines set up all year. I don't use anything fancy to make it - simple masking tape on the floor works wonderfully. Simple and easy are usually best.

Making hash marks on the number line is optional. Currently, I have an open number line (without tick marks) and a closed number line (with tick marks) set up and always ready for use. Open number lines allow students a bit more freedom to experiment and draw their own conclusions. But some students benefit from the tick marks because they add some structure and make the number line more concrete and easier to visualize for beginners or strugglers.

Once you've decided on a number line, you need to make number cards. In the past, I've used Post-It Notes, wood craft sticks, and index cards. They all work fine. 

Post-It Notes are great for the short term and can be made in different colored sets to keep stations organized. Unfortunately, Post-It Notes usually have a short life; they are easily ripped and bent, and they're pretty tough to store long-term.


Wooden craft sticks are great for long term, and they're easy to store. The negatives are that they're relatively small, which makes them difficult to write on (permanent markers required), and they're more expensive than the other options.
Index cards are easy to make, relatively inexpensive, and can be found in a variety of colors - if you look around or order online. I cut mine in half. They're also easy to store - paper clips and rubber bands work great.

Differentiation is simple using either the open or closed number line, and the numbers that you assign your students can be as simple as 1 - 10, or larger numbers reaching into the thousands. 

Students love working with these are number lines. They're great for sequencing numbers, working out greater than/less than problems, and showing adding and subtraction strategies. I am a firm believer that number lines help students really gain a deeper understanding of rounding - students can actually see and manipulate their number cards or sticks to see the WHY behind rounding.



My struggling students enjoy quizzing each other by making some number cards and leaving some empty cards on the number lines. They challenge their classmates to fill in the missing numbers. I like to use this as a station, indoor recess game, and sometimes they play before school starts.
Another game my students enjoy playing a Mystery Number Guessing Game. It's a game many students can play with a partner, although I've had groups of 3, with one student being a referee. 

Rules: Player A chooses a number and keeps it secret. The Player B must ask questions requiring only a yes or no answer. By asking the right questions, and using the number line, students narrow down the numbers that could be the chosen mystery number, until finally, Player B is able to identify the mystery number. 

Visit my Teachers Pay Teachers store to check out this FREEBIE with Mystery Number Game Question Starters:



You can choose the number of incorrect guesses students are permitted. Depending on the student, you can allow one, two, or three guesses before the game is over. If Player B succeeds in guessing the correct number, he wins. If he guesses incorrectly after the number of agreed upon guess, the Player A wins. 

You may want to promote the game as a team game that both players are winners when the Mystery Number is guessed correctly.

This Map Directions Overlay Can Help Your Students

If you are in Ohio and you are going to Texas, what direction will you be traveling?

Build map skills with easy to make overlays from transparency film!

Sounds easy enough, right?  Right? Hello?

Map skills never really go away; they just keep building year after year. Students need a solid foundation to build on, or they remain confused.

We've been working on using cardinal and intermediate directions lately during social studies. 

So, here is the question again. If you are in Ohio and you are going to Texas, what direction will you be traveling?

If your students are like mine, they often struggle with questions like this. I've found a simple, easy to implement strategy for building this integral map skill.

I make my struggling students a transparent compass rose. How? Easy! 


Easy to make overlays to build foundational map skills
You can differentiate these transparent compass roses by using only cardinal directions, or by adding intermediate directions. You could just add the arrows without providing the actual directions, as well. 

To make one, you will need transparency film, a permanent marker, a hole punch, and scissors.

I lightly folded my transparency film into four equal parts. (Yes, it's hard to fold the transparency film, and yes, you can use a ruler instead!)


Make an overlay to differentiate for students struggling to understand directions
The hardest part is hole punching the center of the transparency piece. 

The trick is to bend, not fold, the transparency piece enough to hole punch it. You can see my struggle below. You don't want to have actual folds in the transparency.

Use overlays to build map skills!

Once the hole is in the center, you can use a permanent marker and a ruler to draw the lines to label the cardinal directions and possibly the intermediate directions. 

Remember that you can simply draw the lines without providing directions. The student would still have to correctly know how to apply directions in order to answer the question correctly. It all depends on the level of differentiation required.

Easy differentiation for struggling students

If you are in need of a map skills packet to practice more skills, I've got one available at my Teachers Pay Teachers shop. 

Creative Map Skills Project!
Click the picture above or below to visit my shop!

Map Skills - project and worksheets!
What adaptations have you tried? What works and what doesn't? I'd love for you to share some thoughts below in the comments!

Build Motivation with Easy-Peasy Student of the Week

Students LOVE to celebrate themselves and feel special! Let's be honest, we ALL like to be recognized and honored sometimes. 

I've started a Mini-Student of the Week display. I wanted a cute name for it, but the acronym for Student of the Week - S.O.W. - sow - in my neck of the woods - is a female pig. Not such a cute name to celebrate students! LOL!

I keep it very, very simple.

First, I assign all students a week of the year. The short weeks, like the week of Thanksgiving or the week before Christmas break, I don't assign at all.

Each student brings in a few pictures, trinkets, toys, etc. that are important to them. All I do is put them on display and allow the student a few minutes to talk about them. If the student can bring in some pictures, I hang those up as well. If the student forgets his pictures, I go to Plan B. 


My Plan B is to use student pictures that I take throughout the school year to make sure that EVERY student will have a few pictures to hang in the frame.

I have a basket of "medals" for students to choose from. These are from my Awards For Students and Staff resource at Teachers Pay Teachers. It has certificates and badges (paper medals) in several different colors. 






I enjoy taking the time to celebrate and learn more about each of my students. They feel special and seem to always be on their best behavior. The extra attention is what so many kids crave and need!

Question - How do YOU show your students that they're special? I'd love to add more ideas - help me out by leaving a comment!

FREEBIE - Multi-Step Word Problems Strategy

This resource is fresh in my mind because I just recommended it to a coworker. As I saw the product in action, I was reminded just how terrific it is {{if I do say so myself!}}
Solving multi-step problems is difficult for students, and this helps to break down the steps, providing confidence and a strategy to follow. 

Each page lists the CUBED procedure in a checkbox format, which is very similar to CUBES, except that the "D" stands for "Draw a picture." Students are encouraged to draw a picture to help promote comprehension and problem solving.

FREEBIE - did someone say "Freebie??" Visit my Teachers Pay Teachers Store for a FREE SAMPLE - try it out and see what you think! 

I love the twist on CUBES - drawing pictures really helps visual learners make the story problem concrete enough to visualize and solve.
Try this worksheet FREE! Click on the picture to visit my store!
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