As math teachers, we all know that hands-on manipulatives allow students to ‘play’ with mathematical concepts and develop understanding through concrete learning experiences. While these manipulatives are often fun and engaging, most cannot provide feedback to students. This is where Glow and Cube have changed the game! Glow and Cube are actually physical computing devices that carefully designed to provide students with instant feedback on their performance. While the technology is advanced, Glow and Cube look friendly and fun, so students don’t even realize they’re working with carefully calibrated devices helping them grow.
When I taught math, I would look at my assessment data (both formative and summative) to help me guide small group instruction and group together students that needed to target specific skills. During my time with small groups, I would send the other students to independent math centers. During this time, especially when working with my 1st or 2nd graders, they would sometimes leave their station in order to ask: “Do I have the right answer?” This not only interrupted my work with my small group, but also created a challenge for the student checking in – for young learners, maintaining focus while moving across the room, asking a question, returning to their desk, and getting settled back into their work is no easy feat. Sometimes this interruption would be enough to break their focus and make them lose their momentum.
Students inherently want to know if their thinking is ‘correct,’ especially when they are practicing new skills. When designing independent practice for students, I struggled with how to balance providing students with what they needed to be independent learners with being careful not to create any misconceptions in thinking. I would provide answer keys and graphic organizers, but self-check, time management, and reflection are executive functioning skills that tend to develop much later. Young students still struggled to stay on task. Since I was working with small groups, I was not able to keep track of their independent work with manipulatives.
The beauty of using Cube and/or Glow during math centers is that students can get immediate feedback, without having to wait for the teacher. They will know if their answer is correct by interacting with the physical cubes or dials and receiving instant feedback from the app! Whether they receive a fun celebration or a gentle redirection, they will know just where they stand without needing a teacher standing beside them. This fosters student independence and confidence, while strengthening math skills.
For example, if I wanted students to practice CCSS 5.NBT.A.3: Read, write, and compare decimals to the thousandths, I would use Cube in ‘Decimal’ mode and ‘Compare’ mode. Students can build a number that has a 2 in the tenths place and then compare it to another number. As in the previous post, students will be provided with both written language and symbols to demonstrate their understanding.
Here’s another example with Glow. Students can use Glow during center time to focus on practicing CCSS 2.NBT.B.5: Fluently add and subtract within 100 using strategies based on place value, properties of operations, and/or the relationship between addition and subtraction. The visual representation of the relationship between addition and subtraction can easily be seen with the blue and red colored dots, as well as connections to properties of operations (commutative property of addition: a + b = b + a).
Using Glow’s ‘Addition’ and ‘Solve’ mode can provide great practice! For example, the number sentence 22 + 60 can also be represented as 60 + 22 on the GlowBoard. This demonstrates the commutative property of addition (22 + 60 = 60 + 22). The color differences in the numbers can also help students see mathematical relationships. For example, since 60 (blue) + 22 (red) = 82, students can make connections that 82 – 60 (blue) = 22 (red) left over. This visual representation can really connect with certain students and help them see and understand the relationship between addition and subtraction.
During their center time, I would have students spend approximately 10-15 minutes working with Cube and/or Glow independently. If I had a concern that a student was not on task or wanted to check on student progress, I could refer back to the ‘Teacher Report’ on the device that they were using for the period. This report page provides data about the total number of questions answered, session time, number of questions correct on the first try, and the number of tries it took for the student to answer the question correctly. With one click, you have all the information you need to make sure students are on track and working successfully. (Hint: For an even easier experience keeping track of student progress, you may find it helpful to number the devices and keep a log of which students are on which devices.)
Heidi Williams is the Computer Science Curriculum Specialist for Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI. Her focus is on the K-8 integration of computer science and computational thinking within all core content areas. She is the author of ISTE’s No Fear Coding: Computational Thinking Across the K-5 Curriculum, as well as a facilitator of ISTE-U’s Computational Thinking for Every Educator course.
Within this Blog, Heidi will be posting on how Cube and Glow can help educators to support their students’ mathematical thinking. Over the course of the next three months, you will hear about best practices in pedagogical use, CRA – concrete, representational, abstract connections, visualization of partial products, connections to mathematical standards, and MUCH more!
Within each post you will find detailed explanations, links directly back to the components and resources of Cube and Glow, as well as external links that will provide you with more background information and support in teaching a variety of mathematical standards. As you continue to read her posts, week after week, we hope you fall in love with Cube and Glow. We also hope you enjoy the wealth of mathematical pedagogical content and strategies she shares.
Heidi has an extensive background in mathematical pedagogy, with over fifteen years of experience as a 6th – 8th grade math teacher, as well as a K-8 mathematics specialist. She has had extensive training in differentiation, coaching within a Response to Intervention (RtI) framework, as well as inquiry based instruction. Birdbrain is tapping into her understanding and passion for helping K-8 teachers with mathematical thinking in the classroom. Please join us and follow Heidi’s Hoots!