What’s My Number? Mystery Number Call Math Warm Up


  Emptied photo credit: Darwin Bell via photopin cc

Last week I happened to come across a Tweet in my Twitter feed that talked about ‘Mystery Number Calls’.  Having done a number of Mystery Skype calls with my students my curiosity was piqued and I began to follow the conversation thread. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that it was just like a mystery Skype but the classes would be guessing each others numbers. I opened a sign-up document from a Tweet and promptly forgot about it until the next day when one of my students said “Mystery number call? Cool! When are we going to try it??!”  A few others heard the comment and my class all got excited at the prospect of a new Skype game. That sealed the deal I just had to see if we could try this out!

I tapped into my PLN and @tegesdal agreed to do a mystery number call with us! We decided our classes each would pick 3 numbers between 0 – 99 and take turns asking questions to guess each number one at a time. I am very lucky to have a great coworker (@jennmarieco) who is always willing to try things out with me and agreed to have her third grade class join us in new our math game. After we explained the premise of the game and chose our numbers we eagerly awaited the start of our mystery number call. We had 2 students who were in front of the camera while the rest of the students listened and suggested what questions to ask. Oh what fun it was!

Some great things that I saw happen during the call:

– Having done a number of Mystery Skype calls this year our students all knew the expectations and exactly how to behave. Life is good when things work smoothly!

– Hearing the other classes questions helped our students become more strategic in what questions they asked.                                                                                      Is it even or odd? Is there a 9 in the tens place? Is it a multiple of 5? So many great ways to narrow down what the number is!

– It forces students to draw on their wide mathematical knowledge.

– Being asked about their number forced our students to think critically about the characteristics of our chosen numbers. It also forced them to keep track of what questions we asked and what the others class’s number could be.

– It takes team work to narrow down the number.

– Everyone was successful and we were able to guess all the numbers in the game!

– The game only took 20 mins and is a great warm up for a math class!

Some changes for next time: 

– I would have students pick numbers between 0 and 10 000. (fits with the grade 4 curriculum)

– I would play the ‘low tech’ version of guess my number a few more times to practice our question asking strategies.

– I would give each student either a number line or a number chart of sorts.

– I would do small groups or pair rotations to allow everyone to get more involved.

Our experience with the mystery number call was very positive and I can’t wait to try it agin! If you are interested in connecting with us just let me know!


Wonder of a Quick Assessment Tool: Glass, Bug, Mud

As I was sitting relaxing on christmas break a thought came across my mind, ‘I need a quick assessment tool in math to help with quick differentiation”. I pondered the idea for a while and remembered I had read an article on just that topic in one of my education courses a while ago. Once I had dredged up the name of the article from my memory I started looking into the ins and outs of the assessment tool (incase you’re wondering it’s called, Glass, bug, mud).

The glass, bug and mud assessment tool works with a simple analogy of imagining your understanding is the driver of a car. If you understand a concept you are glass, all is clear and you can see the road. If you kind-of get it you are bugs and see some of the road ahead. Finally, if you are mud your view is almost completely blocked and you don’t understand the concept or question. My goal was to have students quickly self-assess and to help me with my groupings during our math stations in math.

To get the concept of glass, bug, mud going in my classroom I created a small graphic inspired from Freshly Sharpened Pencils and it stuck on the top of my whiteboard.


C.C. “Glass, bug mud” Mary Bertram

Once the graphic was up the fun began. I played a game with my students to see what their evaluation of understanding was of everyday activities with three corners of the classroom representing glass, bug and mud. I asked questions like “What is your understanding of the rules of baseball?” or “Do you understand the rules for kickball?” and the students would move to the appropriate corner. They loved the game and we played it for a good 15 minutes before recess. Later that day I asked all the students to stand up and whether they were glass, bug or mud in their understanding of the topic just covered. They quickly and easily moved to the corner their understanding was at.*It must be noted that I have worked hard to create a sense of community in my classroom this year where weakness is accepted and celebrated as a learning opportunity. I know some students get self-conscious with this type of self-assessment but that is a post for another time.* The rest of the week after we completed work I would ask them where their understanding was at and they would let me know without hesitation. (They actually asked multiple times if we could check our understanding and play glass, bug and mud! You have to love grade 4 enthusiasm)

I hadn’t thought about it much this week as we had a windchill day on Monday and only 5 students made it to school on Wednesday but today is when the MAGIC happened….

I was fumbling my way through a lesson that was nosediving quickly. After explaining something twice to the students one of them said “Miss Bertram. I have to be honest I am at mud right now. I have no idea what you are trying to tell us”. Then slowly a few students responded “Yeah, I am at mud too…”. I smiled as realized I too was in the mud and was glad for our new glass, bug and mud tool.

Math Manipulatives on a Budget

As the summer days tick by  and the new school year is quickly approaching. Being a new teacher this has meant a lot of planning and thinking about what I want in my classroom. On  recent stop at the local dollar store I happened across these little wooden blocks.

As I stood there looking at the blocks an idea struck me, ‘Why not make them into math manipulatives?’. At $1 for 52 blocks I could  easily make a new set of multipurpose manipulatives for my classroom. Armed with a few fine tipped permanent markers this is what I came up with:

One activity idea is that students can grab a few numbered blocks from the bag roll them and then be challenged to create the largest or smallest number possible from the numbers they rolled. Another idea is to use the blocks to create number sentences depending on what we’re working on at that time. The possibilities are almost endless, so for $2 I think this is a great addition to my math corner!

I went back later in the week and came up with these coloured alphabet blocks. Perhaps a good tool for ‘Work on Words’ in Daily 5?

You See Colour Samples… I See..

As a new teacher I find myself thinking of all the resources I would like to get ready for my future classroom. Because I am fresh out of school and am still looking for a classroom to call home, I can’t quite justify spending oodles of money on supplies just yet. With a great conversation with a friend, a bit of inspiration and an eye for ideas, here is what came from a trip to the hardware store with another teacher buddy of mine.

Dotcards to for subitizing games! 

(A fun way to increase fluency and number sense)

 Alphabet squares for an alphabet wall!

A Word family game idea I  found from The Snail’s Trail &  My Crazy Simple Life

 (Check out their blog posts they’re awesome and full of more great ideas for the word family game!)

So there you have it! A few colour samples from the hardware store and three new bright colourful ideas for the classroom! My next stop is going to be at our local ArtsJunktion (a great place for any budget conscious teacher)  to see if there are any similar supplies I can gather for free!