I have an "ALPHANUMBERETICAL" chart that I carry around with me. When I see the chance for a few Math minutes I hang the chart from a hook by the blackboard and proceed.
The latest version of my chart is illustrated below, it is based on those "Countdown Calendars" which pop up at this time of the year, where some small, daft character can be moved through each daily pocket to that FINAL, much-anticipated moment involving joy and presents.
As you see my version of the calendar has a number piece in EVERY pocket, making it a re-usable alphabet/numbers sequence chart. There is also the extra small character (in our case a MATH MOUSE) which can sometimes work its way into our exercises.
In the classroom a simple description and explanation shows that for this exercise we are going to let each number represent the corresponding chart letter. The various Math Minutes we undertake involve substituting numbers for letters and adding together all kinds of letter combinations.
We begin the discussion by helping each child identify and remember the number corresponding to their own first name's initial.
Now try calling out random numbers and have the "matching" children stand up. With some astute selections any child can be made "extra special" for that moment.
Ask all children to stand, then sit down as their own number is called sequentially, see who is left standing. Is it Zachary? Yolanda?
Clear all numbers from the pockets, lay them on a table and select individual children to step up and "pocket" the answer to a question, or have that child describe a query and "pocket" its solution.
Begin the discussion by deciding which child has the LOWEST VALUED FIRST INITIAL, then the HIGHEST, or the SAME as another. Once the children are accustomed to the correlations move on to more complicated exercises.
Ask each child to compute the TOTAL VALUE of all letters in their FIRST NAME, then review and discuss the answers.
I do try to stress that it can be fun to have the lowest value - but that never works! Instead each child aims to have the highest value, and suddenly children with short nicknames will want to switch to their full given name. Let them go ahead, the results can prove interesting - take the example of TERRY who wants to switch to TERESA and sum it out - it's 68 vs. 86 - no gain!
Other comparisons we have used in this grade are family members' names, favorite characters (Felicity is 89, Samantha is 77, Barney is 65, Shaq is 45), closest to ME, etc.
Since our Presidential election is on our minds, we have recently compared the principal candidates BILL (35) vs. BOB (19).
Now the scope increases and we add the LAST name to the first in computing personal values.
At this stage students really love those high "scores" so the usual ploy for increasing the value is asking to include their middle name or names, I make it a rule to allow this only if the child can spell it properly!
Team approaches are now in order and we bring in WORD LENGTH as well as LETTER VALUE, asking the following questions:
Which one-, two-, three- or four-letter word can you find having the HIGHEST value and which having the LOWEST? A hint toward the best four-letter answer I remember is - "the hair on a peach" (answer below).
Second graders also know that on November 5 the main election contest features BOB DOLE who adds up to 55 and BILL CLINTON at 122.
This exercise can be extended by comparison of month values, sports, seasons, etc.
Third graders can zoom through, yet still enjoy, the exercises described for earlier grades. So then we make it a little more challenging by increasing the word length range to seven letters in the HIGHEST and LOWEST section. We warn that no plurals will count because what starts out as a giggle, very quickly becomes achingly boring to the teacher! A hint for a great six-letter word is "what the bee did" (answer below).
We also take time to look for patterns to speed up our comparisons - so much "numbers worktime" can be saved by noticing patterns. Comparing the months is an example; there are pattern timesavers in comparing the first two months and discounting -UARY or in comparing the last four with October omitted and discounting -EMBER.
Finally in choosing words to value, if you hit on EXCELLENT you aced it!
Answers: The hair on a peach is FUZZ. The bee BUZZED.
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