Close your eyes. Visualize 8 on a ten frame. What do you see? How many are on top? How many on the bottom? How many blank spots are there? Turn and describe what you see to your neighbor. Go.
This kind of thing has been happening often during the past few weeks in my classroom. Through the guidance of Christina Tondevold from Buildmathminds.com, I have seen the light, and the light is called visualizing. The results leave me wondering, Why haven't I been doing this for 24 years? It seems so obvious now that it's officially become a staple of number sense in my room.
Asking my mathematicians to visualize and to visualize within the structure of a ten frame is helping them make huge connections. For one thing, it helps them with facts. If a child can visualize 8, he can see the extra 2 spots that are needed to make 10. Today my class used visualizing in order to use the Make 10 strategy. After days of visualizing, ten frames, scaffolding, and a gradual release of responsibility (all credit goes to Christina Tondevold), a majority of my students were able to explain how to solve the problem below. In fact, my notation came directly from their mouths.
"Give 2 to the 8 to make 10. That leaves 2 left out. 10 plus 2 equals 12."
(Do not try this at home without all the essential conceptual steps.)
Why can they do this? Because they can visualize. When one of my mathematicians decided to use her free time to solve an additional problem (9 + 5), she knew to give 1 to the 9 but then got stuck in her notation. She didn't automatically know what was left from the 5. As soon as I said, "Visualize 5 on the ten frame. Now take one away. How many are left?" she instantly wrote 4. It was kind of magical.
I will forever now promote visualizing as an essential math strategy. It gives all kids access to numbers. It's really a must. Thank you Christina for leading me to the light!
P.S. It's possible I'm the only one on the planet who didn't know this already, so thanks for celebrating with me regardless. :)