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We love number bonds….no seriously, we do!!

Last year my class fell head over heels in love with…..

number bonds!

No, your vision is not failing– you read that correctly. The loved all things number bonds! If they had a chance to doodle, they made number bonds. If they needed to show what strategy they used, they drew number bonds. If there were 3 circles anywhere, they were making them into a number bond.

I never in a million years could have anticipated how much they would love them! I have been using “Part-Part-Whole” boxes since I started teaching, but there is something my firsties love about number bonds. It makes the mathematical relationship of parts and a whole easy for them to understand so it makes the numbers easy to use! It allows them to feel like math masters, because they know so many ways to use those numbers! Here some doodles that popped up already this year…

Before we ever formally start addition or subtraction, we learn all about composing and decomposing numbers. I use those terms because I think it’s important for my firsties to understand key math vocabulary. I say “decomposing” in a robot voice and pretend I’m a robot pulling something into two pieces. They remember the term right away (but be prepared to have that voice echoed back to you all year!)

From the beginning of the year, we use a lot of manipulatives, including unifix cubes, counters, counting bears, crayons, magnets, and seasonal items. This really helps little ones visualize what it means to compose or decompose a number…and of course, it’s fun!

When we started learning about number bonds, I told my class we were getting a class pet. I set up a dog bed and treat jar in the morning before school started, and we waited until math to introduce our pet: Whole the Decomposing Doggie! They were so excited to give him treats, and visit him at centers every day. He sleeps in a dog bed by the window during the day. When we start centers, the kids get him out, and stick him on the filing cabinet (with magnets) and give him plenty of treats for the day. I simply stuck the recording sheet in a dry erase sleeve so we can just keep using the same one again and again.
FREE Decomposing Doggie Number Bond Pet

You can download Whole the Decomposing Doggie for FREE! I have seen some awesome pictures of him in other classrooms! Thanks to Amy N of Fun in Room 3 and Mrs. Hoyne for sharing their pictures on Instagram! Every kid in Amy’s class got their own Decomposing Doggie to take home. My class would be sooo jealous!

I explicilty teach how to decompose all of the numbers from 2 to 10 using projectable lessons. We also use these lessons to practice problem solving and learning how to explain our thinking to a partner. (Click here to learn more about projectable and interactive lessons.) These are a few of the slides from our Decomposing 5 lesson…

You can download the entire Decomposing 2 Interactive Lesson and printables for FREE here

Math doesn’t have to be fancy, but it should be fun! When we work in a small group, we typically use a work mat with counters, counting bears, or unifix cubes, but I encourage my kiddos to use crayons at their desks as manipulatives. Sometimes they like to use glue sticks or markers, but it’s been helpful for them to practice problem solving with materials that are always available. Common core standards emphasize learning how to solve problems in a real world way so I want them to be able to find their own manipulatives. Very few families have counting bears and unifix cubes at home.

We have also been practicing our number bonds as part of our calendar routine. I just hung a seasonal work mat on the board and we use magnets to compose and decompose numbers each day. It’s a really quick way to review a learned number or preview the upcoming numbers. Next month, I will replace the apple with a pumpkin work mat and use white magnets for seeds.

The apple work mat is also fun for hands-on practice. I found gummy worms and rubber worms at Dollar Tree. You can compose or decompose numbers with these creepy crawlers! We are learning about apples and pests in science so this is a great link to help tie everything together.

I have been saving our pumpkin work mats, but they will be making an appearance soon! On my trip to Dollar Tree, I also picked up some little candy pumpkins and some dried pumpkin seeds. Any seasonal accents would be great to as manipulatives! You can grab all of these work mats and printables as one complete set here.

We have been spending a lot of time working on number bonds, but I know it’s a very worthwhile investment. We will be ready for the challenges of addition and subtraction, because we already understand the relationships between numbers. I am sure I will be seeing many more number bonds this year as my firsties problem solve….and doodle!

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Emily Yerty

I’m a teacher who believes in creating a classroom kids love and activities that keep them engaged all day!

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