What are Number Strings

A Number String is a set of related math problems designed to teach strategies based on number relationships. It is a 10–15 minute routine that can be used during math instruction.

  • Prepare an area to use the number string by gathering students in an area where the whole class meets. This can be the students sitting on a rug or in chairs situated where everyone can see each other and the board where you pose problems and represent their thinking.
  • Start the number string:
    • Pose one problem at a time using Picture Cards, Dot Cards, Ten Frame Cards, a Number Path, a Rekenrek, or writing a problem on the board (determined by the number string). Use the provided context for the problems, if suggested.
  • Establish classroom norms for strings:
    • Explain to students that they are expected to use what they know to solve the problem.
    • Establish a discrete signal students should use to let you know that they have an answer to the problem.
    • Wait until you notice that most students are ready to provide an answer to the problem, based on the signal that you have established with them.
  • Encourage student strategies:
    • Write down answers students provide. It is important to avoid giving any indication at this point that the answer is correct or incorrect.
    • Strategically choose students to share by asking leading questions or circulating to find what target strategy they used. This can be students who have a good start, who have made a typical error that can be analyzed by the class, who have an idea that will help active learning happen, or who have used a target strategy. This is not about calling on a student who can explain the best, but about helping create a community of learners.
    • Have students explain their strategy to the class.
  • Model student thinking:
    • While students explain their strategy, decide if you are going to model the strategy. You are looking for efficient ways to solve the problem and will model about 2–3 different strategies, with one being the strategy the number string is designed to elicit and develop.
    • Model the strategy using the manipulative or tool the number string suggests.
    • If a number string’s purpose is to develope a certain strategy to be developed and that strategy is not emerging from students, then you may need to question students to help them consider the strategy.

Remember, this is not intended for everyone to use the same strategy by the end of a particular number string. It is always about encouraging students to look at the numbers and determine what strategy is most helpful for them.

Daily Math Fluency

Daily Math Fluency is your year-long, ready-made solution for developing efficiency, flexibility, and accuracy in your students’ grasp of basic math facts in less than 10 minutes a day.

  • 120 Number Strings teach appropriate strategies through repeated practice.
  • 60 Math Talks promote active participation to assess student thinking.
  • Hands-on Manipulatives model thinking to help develop efficiency and accuracy.
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