New K-2 Supports (Part 1 of 2)

K-2 teachers, we have heard your requests for resources and supports designed just for primary students; the recent updates to our website,, are just what you have been waiting for! As we designed these new sections, we were focused on building number sense in your students. We know the foundation of math success is a strong number sense so we wanted to provide you with activities and games that help build that mathematical understanding in your students. This post highlights just two of the new tabs under K-2 Supports that offer you new and ready-to-use resources.



Head over to Activities for our newest creation, Number Maps. These are perfect warm-up or early-finisher activities. Students use the patterns they understand in the 100s chart to fill in the blanks. Not only does this stretch special awareness, but also gives students a chance to develop skills in Math Practice #7: Look for and make use of structure.

Four corners is an SMc favorite for grades 3-12. This version is best for Kindergarten. Teachers can choose from the 0-9 or the teen number version. Place the number in the center, and have students show that number in four different ways.

DecaDeck and DecaDominoes are partner games that help students see numbers in various ways. This ability to visualize numbers gives students practice mentally “seeing” combinations of numbers to 10, the foundation of mental math.

The Deca Deck can be used many ways, but one of our favorites is the traditional card game of “War”. That turns the recognition of various ways to see numbers into a competitive, high-paced speed race.

Head over to Activities to see these additions and more!


Our Fluency tab currently houses all of our BUMP games- and this isn’t your Pinterest BUMP. In our version, students don’t “lock” squares (leading to a shorter game), instead, they capture their opponent’s pieces and keep track of them in a 10-frame, once again re-emphasizing combinations to 10 as a foundation of mental math.

If you haven’t used BUMP with your students before, it is a popular game easily adaptable to various levels of challenge. Head over to our Instructions page to see different ways to play!

DecaDeck Card Set for K-2 Number Sense

Free printable?  Yes, please!  Introducing our DecaDeck card set for a variety of number sense activities!

In a classroom of 5- and 6-year-olds, how do you keep the interest of those who have highly developed number sense while still providing active learning opportunities for those that need a bit more practice?

Enter the DecaDeck! We created this set using five different models of 0 – 10.  Ten frames, numbers, tallies, fingers, and dice.  (Additional symbol cards for  and  are included, as well as a version with four different “backs,” so four colors of cardstock will create 16 unique decks.)

While the activity suggestions below can be associated with some kindergarten and first grade standards, we really like how well these align to the Standards for Mathematical Practice, particularly:

Math Practice 5 – Model with mathematics

Math Practice 7 – Look for and make use of structure


Download the DecaDeck here.

There are plenty of ways to use the DecaDeck at school or as a take-home activity.  Here are a just a few ideas for partner games that we’ve used:

Go Fish


The classic.  Remove the symbol cards and all of one model (such as all the dice, or all the ten frames – if you don’t, there will be one leftover card for each number after pairs are made). Each partner gets five cards and the rest of the deck is face down between them.  Students look for number pairs in their hand first, putting aside any pairs, then take turns asking their partner for a match. If the partner has a match, it must be handed over.  If not, that student must “go fish” and take a card from the deck.  When one partner is out of cards, count the pairs made.  The student with the most pairs wins.

Go Fish to Tens

K.OA.4, 1.OA.6

Just like the classic pairs game above, but instead of matching numbers, students must find two cards that partner to ten (2 and 8, 0 and 10, etc).  Please note, there will always be one lone “5” left over!


K.CC.6, K.CC.7

Remove the symbol cards. Deal out the entire deck evenly between two partners.  At the same time, each partner turns over their top card.  Whoever has the greater value wins both cards.  If the values are the same, then there is a “war.”  For the war, students place three additional cards facedown, and then turn up their next card.  Whoever has the greater value that time wins all of the cards from the turn.  The game is over when one student has all the cards or a set time is up (partner with the most cards wins). Extension ideas:

  • Least value wins each time
  • Turn over two cards each and find the sum or difference (teacher chooses)
  • Require that students use the and  cards when comparing values

Focused Fact Practice

K.OA.2, K.OA.5, 1.OA.6

This is done best with an adult partner.  Place two cards face up on the desk and ask the student to say the addition sentence (you can use the symbol cards to help on this one, too).  Let’s say a student gets a 5 and a 2.  The student says “Five plus two equals seven.”


Now, the adult partner knows this student can add 2, but needs more practice with adding 5.  So the adult partner places a new card over the 2, and this continues so that the student can practice adding 5 a few times in a row.  Then when the adult partner feels the time is right, a different card can be placed over the 5 and a new number becomes the addition focus.  Students who are ready could also practice adding 3 cards, or finding the difference between cards instead of the sum.

A Little Bit About Our Process

When we designed the cards, we had to make some decisions about the finger counting and dice models in order to keep the format as consistent as possible and allow students to make use of similar structures.

For the finger counting, we love the way EngageNY teaches this. They call it “the math way.”  The theory here is that teaching kids to count beginning at the left pinkie and moving over to the right gives them constant access to a portable number line.  (Think about it.  Count to ten on your fingers the way you learned, right now.  We’re guessing that when you got to 5, your thumb popped out to be in front of your “1” finger.)  Also, we wanted the cards to match the ten-frame cards and tallies as much as possible, with the 5-groups easily identified.

When it comes to the dice, one of our favorite Kindergarten “hacks” is to take regular dice and cut a piece of white mailing label and stick it over the 6, instantly giving you dice that roll only a 0 to 5.  Roll two, and you can’t go over 10!  They are also a great substitute for number cards.  (Side note: We found a pack of ten little containers at a dollar store and keep our dice in these.  They don’t roll off the table, are quiet, and easily read through the plastic).

Do you have other ideas for using the DecaDeck?  Share them with us so we can spread the word!

EngageNY and the Homework Experience (Part two of a three-part series)

Last week, we posted about some of our favorite planning and assessment materials for the popular EngageNY K-5 math curriculum, A Story of Units.  This week, we continue that series by sharing some of our observations and go-to resources for the homework piece of EngageNY.

If you’ve worked with EngageNY much at all, you might just have noticed that the way the curriculum leads students through the conceptual development process is probably not the way your students’ parents and caregivers (and you!) were taught to do math.  Right away, teachers assigning the homework component had to become public relations specialists and work to build happy math bridges between home and school.

Two districts created solutions to this early on, and we are so very happy that they have made their resources available online.

Parent Newsletters by Module and Topic. 

A team at Lafayette Parish School System in Lafayette, Louisiana created newsletters (choose your grade level and click on the purple “homework support for parents and caregivers” button) for each EngageNY topic.  That means they have one for every handful of lessons that explains the learning objectives, vocabulary, models, and concepts for the coming days.  We love that they have included illustrations and step-by-step instructions whenever possible to show how some of the models or processes work!

Video Explanations and Homework Pages. 

On the other side of the U.S., the Oakdale Joint Unified School District in Oakdale, California has created videos (again, choose your grade level and click on the purple “homework support for parents and caregivers” button) showing how to complete the homework for each lesson! Their collection also includes a completed activity (usually the problem set) and blank homework pages to download in English and Spanish.

Keep in mind, there are other creative ways to address the homework issue!  Here are a couple ideas and strategies you might want to consider as well:

Use the Problem Set as a Guide. 

If you are unsure about parents (or students) having access to all the completed homework pages, consider having students attach that day’s completed problem set to their blank homework page, so that they have something to reference when they get home.  You could also create a finished problem set yourself if you need to provide a model for neatness or showing work.

Keep it at School. 

Depending on the lesson, you can usually use the problem set during instruction as guided practice during the lesson, and then have students complete the homework as their independent practice in class.  If you do send home math homework, consider giving review work or fact fluency practice from other non-EngageNY sources.

How have you handled the homework aspect of EngageNY?  Feel free to leave a comment so others can benefit from your experience!

Performance Task = Math Masterpiece

One of the components to the Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBA) is the performance task. Performance tasks allow students to engage in an extended problem solving situation. The rich task gives students an opportunity to show their mathematical and critical thinking knowledge and skills across different standards. Using all of these skills helps students on their path to college and career readiness. However, preparing students for this new component may seem overwhelming for some teachers.

The teachers at SMc Curriculum met at the beginning of the school year to determine how best to help teachers practice the performance task. We quickly found that doing a Google search for “performance tasks” would mostly either: 1) lead us to the practice tasks on the SBA website or; 2) lead us to really problem-solving tasks but not performance tasks when comparing to Smarter Balanced item specifications for a performance task. A good performance task that will allow students to practice the skills required by the Smarter Balanced Assessment must have questions that reach up to a Depth of Knowledge Level 4. Unfortunately, a majority of the resources we found online did not quite reach that far. So, we adapted! We took the tasks that were really good and appropriate for the grade level and extended the questions to include DOK levels 3 and 4 if they did not already exist. You can see our final products under the Performance Task tab.

Once you have a good performance task, then what? How can you instruct students in the skills of perseverance and attention to precision that is necessary for success on a performance task? One idea is to create a Math Masterpiece.

Supplies needed per partner or group:

  • a piece of construction paper (11 x 17 is preferable);
  • a glue stick;
  • a performance task cut into strips so that there are only 1 – 2 questions per strip.

How to run the activity:

  1. Students work in pairs on their first strip and bring it up to the teacher to get checked once they think they have completed the questions accurately. Consider asking students to have the writer on each strip rotate between the partners to ensure participation by all.
  2. The teacher will put a tick mark in the corner of the strip to indicate the partners have come up to get the task strip checked. If the answer is correct and the work sufficient, the tick mark is circled and the partners are given back that strip of paper along with the next strip of the performance task. If the answer is incorrect or the work is insufficient, the strip is handed back and a hint is given.
  3. Each time the teacher sees a strip, a new tick mark is added and scaffolded hints are given.  The tick marks help you as a teacher keep track of how students are doing on each part of the task.
  4. Strips of paper with tick marks circled are glued onto the construction paper to begin their Math Masterpiece. This process continues until all partner sets have all the strips of paper glued onto their construction paper.

A Math Masterpiece gives students the chance to practice skills they need for the performance task. By keeping their strips of paper and gluing them onto the construction paper students are able to see how their answers from the first part of a problem solving task will affect the rest of the problem. For teachers, once the Masterpieces are complete and hung around the room or collected, you will be able to look at the strips of paper to see trends. Did most of your students get only one tick mark circled on the first strip? That most likely means that students understand the content from that question. But what if the fourth strip took almost every groups 2 or 3 times of trying (indicated by the tick marks) before they got the correct answer? Perhaps the skill practiced by that part of the task could stand to be retaught in class the next day. By working together and breaking the larger performance task into smaller, more manageable pieces students tend to more easily persevere through the large task.

Hopefully the different performance tasks we have collected will prove helpful in your classroom. What other ways have you been able to help prepare students for the performance task?

Building Academic Math Vocabulary

Academic vocabulary in mathematics is often one of the largest barriers for students.  They understand the mathematics when asked to perform it in a specific way, but when asked using vocabulary they are not comfortable with, they may respond like they have never seen the content before!  Students must also be able to “attend to precision” (Math Practice 6) and understand that many terms in mathematics have similarities but yet the differences between the terms makes them not interchangeable.  For example, a third grader who does not know the difference between an expression and an equation may lose half-credit on a Smarter Balanced item if they type in an equation when asked for an expression.

In the Item Specifications for Smarter Balanced, the “construct relevant” vocabulary is listed for each Claim 1 (Concepts and Procedures) target.  We at SMc Curriculum have taken these vocabulary words and formatted them on individual cards to be used in the classroom to introduce or reinforce the vocabulary.

One way to use the vocabulary cards would be through a small group activity called Math Password.  In this activity, students (3-4 per group) are given a set of the vocabulary cards which they place upside-down in the center of their group.  One player draws a card and, without looking, holds it to his or her forehead for others to see.  The others in their group give him/her mathematical  clues on what their word until the person whose turn it is guesses the word or gives up.  Words that the clue-givers don’t know can be put into a separate pile.  At the end of the activity, each group is responsible for looking up the words they did not know from this pile and sharing one learning with the class.

You can find your grade-level vocabulary cards by selecting your grade-level in the Smarter Balanced section of this website and then clicking on the top button (purple) that reads “Concepts and Procedures (Claim 1) Fact Sheets and Vocabulary”.  The vocabulary cards will be the top link on this next page.  A sample of these cards (Grade 7) can be viewed here.

Welcome to the New CCSS Math Activities Journal

We at SMc Curriculum are excited to release resources for K-12 mathematics teachers to support classroom instruction and assessment.  Come back often to check out our new resources and learn strategies for engaging students in the math classroom!