My Experience with Counting Circles #julychallenge Post 14


Still addressing 14 ways of thinking about good teaching from this post

2.  Plan goals for both the long term and the short term.

My number 1 goal is to help students grow – personally and academically.  My wish is that they leave my classroom believing in themselves, more self-confident than when they entered. 

Ideally, I do want every student to reach proficiency, but I am also a realist.  When students come to me with *ACT-PLAN scores in the 10-14 range, proficiency is not an immediate goal…growth is, pure and simple.  My class becomes the stepping stone to reach proficiency.  Students in this range generally have major gaps in number reasoning.  They are just now beginning to develop understanding and knowledge of assessed skills.

Last year, I wanted to use accessible tasks to begin each day…Counting Circles, Number Talks (pg 4 of link) and my post, Estimation180, and Visual Patterns were staples in my Algebra 2 classes.  Students in these classes ranging from ACTPLAN scores from 10 to 23-wide range of abilities and varied confidence levels.  These tasks were approachable for all students and I feel helped in developing number sense which allowed several students to make significant gains on thier ACT.

Counting Circles (Thanks to Sadie!) was very popular in both classes.  We literally got out of our desks to create a “circle” around the room. Yes, it seemed trivial at first, but I was able to see student confidence grow as they strengthened numeracy skills.


My Routine
We have a starting number and a number to count by.  In the beginning, I choose nice numbers, then some that required a little more thought.  Eventually, I allow students choose our counting number and starting point.  I would have expected them to take the easy route.  Not at all.  They like to challenge themselves.  We also countdown.  I like to write their responses on the board for them to visually see the patterns.  When a student makes a mistake, I try to not point it out, but rather, allow students to have opportunity to voice their concerns with a response, respectfully, of course.

After going so far around the circle, I stop and ask, What will _______ (a little further around the circle) say next? 

We usually get a couple of responses, so I allow them to explain their process then, as a class, they determine which one makes more sense.

Also, I like to ask…who will say ______ ?

Side note: Later in a functions unit, while looking at finite differences, a student explained, this is similar to what we were doing with Counting Circle the other day!

Our First Counting Circle – Count by 10
I began with couting by 10 on decade numbers, by -10 on decade numbers, then on numbers like 11 or 14, counting by 10 in both directions.  It was a great way to model the routine.  Students are comfortable with it.

Next week, we counted by 2s, up and down, starting on positive and then a negative.

Several students are all in – they’ve got this!

Then by 5s.  On 15, 70, -85 then numbers not ending in 0 or 5…. 37, 128, -89. Both up and down.

I began using single digit integers then a few double digits.

Next week we worked with decimals +3.7,  starting with an integer, then moving to devimals 11.2.  One student this particular day was quickly running through their numbers.  When I asked their strategy, they responded….its easy, add 4 then count .1 back 3 times.

We also use fraction expressions as well.

I already know my stronger numeracy students-those with “high status” in class (Ilana Horn).  So do their classmates.  What I love about counting circles is choosing different students to explain.  Struggling students pick up on numeracy techniques as explained by their peers.  They are able to see those high-status students’ thinking and realize, “I can do that too.”  Its a win-win.

Yes, at high school age, I have students who don’t want to participate, but with a bit of coaxing, they come around. It becomes a game.  Classmates encourage those who struggle.  We don’t laugh or make fun.  They celebrate when ‘that’ student experiences success.  Most of all, they smile.

Generally, it takes anywhere from 5-15 minutes depending on number choices, discussions, size of class, experience with the routine.

Suggestions:  pre-cal count around unit circle, elementary use money as a context, what others can you share?

Long term goals and planning changes with each group of students.  Having access to learning routines like these allow me to tailor toward each groups’ needs.

*In Kentucky, every student takes the PLAN during sophomore year and ACT during their junior year as part of our state accountability model.  To measure student growth from state data, students are grouped by their PLAN scores, then compared to others in this scoring band.  Once the ACT scores are available, they are given a percentile rank from within that initial grouping.  I, the teacher, can view this and whether they had high growth, expected growth or below expected growth.  The state assigns me an overall rating and this will eventually become 20% of our Certified Evaluation plan.  The other 80% is determined locally and by student growth and proficiency goals I personally set for my students early in the school year.


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