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Connie Sharp » Connie Sharp- Mathematics Instructional Coach

Connie Sharp- Mathematics Instructional Coach

Welcome to my page!  I started my teaching career back in 1998 here at Windham Center as a Kindergarten Teacher in the Companeros Program.  I took a decade off to raise my children and came back to Windham in 2014 as a Math Interventionist.  I now serve as a Math Coach for Grades K-5.  Come by my page often to check out what’s new in the world of MATH!


Recent Posts

Building Number Sense in your K-2 student


Having a strong foundation in number sense and fluency equips students to tackle harder word problems and be better prepared for their academics later in life.

Here are a few enrichment activities parents can do with their children to get their synapses firing — while they’re having fun. It’s also worth noting that the best age to start each of these varies from child to child. Your 18-month-old may not be able to handle some, and your 5-year-old may think a few are too easy. You know your child best.

  1. Playing Simple Card Games

Playing card games is a great way for kids to learn about numbers up to 10. The cards between two and 10 not only have numerals printed on them — they also contain the number of symbols that add up to the value of the card. This graphic reinforcement helps students to conceptually understand what each numeric symbol represents.

There are many card games that are appropriate even for young learners: Go Fish, War, and Concentration. Go Fish helps children with pairing numbers, War develops the ability to discern which of two numbers is greater, and Concentration enables students to begin to hold mental images of numbers in their minds.

  1. Recognizing Numbers in Sequence

It is good for young children to be able to see the numbers in context as they are learning how to associate the written symbol with the spoken word. Connecting dots that are numbered is a fun way for students to combine drawing and counting — they’re simultaneously developing fine motor skills and number recognition abilities.

Another (slightly more advanced) way of learning sequences is with a number board, which typically consists of colored tiles inlaid on a square grid. They differ in numbers of tiles — some may have only 30 while others can be as large as 100. Let your little one start by simply matching tiles with their appropriate places on the board. To ramp up the difficulty, have them place only even, or only odd numbers back on the board. They could also try counting by threes, or fives, or tens. The spatial and tactile nature of these exercises will help kids learn to count in different increments, both in and out of sequence.

As we know, kids love to race. Parents can use a stopwatch to make completing a number board (in any order they choose) more exciting, and comparing previous times will enable children to feel a sense of progress — and to practice subtraction.

A good real-world test of number-sequencing skills is an elevator. The next time you find yourself in one, challenge your young learner to find a number quickly without needing to recite the whole sequence first.

  1. Counting Anything and Everything

One of the best and easiest math-related activities you can do with your young children is to ask them to count real objects. By counting real things, they can use their own experiences with objects to understand numbers better.

You can have them count food items — how many string beans do they have on their plate? — or have them help you measure quantities — like a half-cup of water in a recipe. Another technique is to count the same type of coin starting with pennies. They you can move on to nickels and dimes. After kids learn how to count by ones, fives, and tens, you can mix up different types of coins and ask them to add up the change.

When children get good at counting, the next challenge can be to ask them to count numbers backwards. The ability to count backwards provides a strong foundation for children starting to learn about subtraction.

  1. Calculating Items and Prices

A garage, stoop, or yard sale is an opportunity for you to sell items you no longer need — and it also presents the opportunity for your child to count items and help customers add up totals. Another fun family activity that will allow your kids to exercise their price-calculating talents is a lemonade stand. Not only will they be able to measure ingredients (number of lemons, volumes of water and sugar), but they’ll be able to practice their subtraction skills by making change for customers.

  1. Recognizing Numbers Out of Sequence

Numbers are all around us, and their omnipresence provides an opportunity for parents to ask kids to read them aloud. An opportunity could arise with the price on a clothing item or the house number on a street address. Whatever the context, the ability to identify numbers out of sequence is a fundamental component to initial number fluency.

  1. Tracking the Temperature

You can use either a high-tech or low-tech approach for this one. Use calendar and weather apps (or an actual calendar and a thermometer) to record the highest temperature each day. You can review your records with your child and ask about the fluctuation in numbers. What is the difference between the high yesterday and the high today? Which day this week was the hottest? Which day was the coolest? How many days this month had the same high temperature? If you’re feeling especially ambitious, you might even do a similar activity with humidity. Or wind speed. Or if you live somewhere especially snowy, measure the accumulation every day.

  1. Telling Time

More often than not these days, we read times on a digital clock. Using an analog watch that has numbers and moving hands, however, enables children to start thinking about the concept of fractions while learning how to tell time. This is also a great opportunity to introduce your child to phrases that adults take for granted, like “half-past” or “quarter-to.”

Why do kids need to learn fact fluency???

So what’s the big deal with math facts?  Why in today’s day and age – with calculators and computers – do our kids really need to rote learn their basic addition, subtraction, multiplication and division?  Isn’t this just ‘old school’?

Math facts fluency refers to the ability to recall the basic facts in all four operations accurately, quickly and effortlessly.  When students achieve automaticity with these facts, they have attained a level of mastery that enables them to retrieve them for long-term memory without conscious effort or attention. 

Brain imaging studies have shown how the progression from effortful processes, such as finger counting, to automatized retrieval is associated with actual changes in the regions of the brain involved in mathematical computation (Rivera, Reiss, Eckert and Menon, 2005).

So why focus on math facts?

Math facts fluency leads to higher order mathematics

Through automaticity students free up their working memory and can devote it to problem solving and learning new concepts and skills (Geary, 1994).  Quite simply, a lack of fluency in basic math fact recall significantly hinders a child’s subsequent progress with problem-solving, algebra and higher-order math concept. 

Fluent math facts mean less confusion

Math facts are important because they form the building blocks for higher-level math concepts.  When a child masters his/her math facts, these concepts will be significantly easier and the student will be better equipped to solve them faster.  If the child spends a lot of time doing the basic facts, he/she is more likely to be confused with the processes and get lost in their calculations.

Math fact automaticity affects performance – not only in maths

In later elementary, students have longer and more complicated computations to complete to check their understanding of various concepts.  At this stage, if a student does not have his/her math facts committed to memory, he/she will spend a disproportionate amount of time figuring out the smaller calculations and risk not completing the test.  This not only affects their performance in math class, but will also in other subjects, such as science and geography.

Less math anxiety

Math can be compared to languages in some ways.  Just like you have to learn to combine letters into words and words into sentences – and we have strategies like phonics and sight words to help kids to learn to read - math facts are the foundation blocks for learning the next level of maths.  There is rote learning involved in both language and math mastery. Math anxiety starts when children fall behind and can’t keep up.  To avoid these anxieties, students’ early elementary years should focus on learning the foundation math skills needed for later years – math facts are among those important math skills.