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Igniting Learning, Curiosity and a Love for Mathematics Using Prime Climb Circle Patterns Differently

As I have mentioned in previous blog posts I was first introduced to Dan Finkel and his Prime Climb Circle Patterns by watching his TedX Talk, Five Principles of Extraordinary Math Teaching, at a staff meeting approximately three years ago.

If you haven’t seen this talk I recommend you do. Here is the video below:

I became intrigued and curious as to what my grade 3 students’ thinking would be about the circle patterns 1 to 20.

It was already March in the school year so we only had a few weeks to engage in exploration and discussion. There was indeed, productive struggle, but the connection to and learning of factors and multiples was fascinating.

I decided to take a leave of absence for the 2017/2018 school year and during this time, I engaged Grade 4, 5 and 6 students with the Prime Climb Circle Patterns. A blog post was written to share about this learning: Prime Climb Round 5

My fascination with the circle patterns continued to grow and upon my return to the classroom this past Fall (2018), I decided to take a different approach with the circle patterns. My teaching methodology is based on the school day and within the daily routine, we spend time discussing number patterns (divisibility) for each school day starting at 0. (This is the Day By Day Math Guide).

We have paper hundreds charts out from Day 1 and we determine/count the number patterns with the count starting at 0. Example:

  • 1--You can count by 1, one time starting at 0
  • 2--You can count by 1, two times and by 2, one time starting at 0
  • 3--You can count by 1, three times, and by 3, one time starting at 0
  • 4--You can count by 1, four times, by 4, one time and by 2, two times starting at 0

As we proceeded through the school days 1-20, I colored in each circle and asked my students each day if they are recognizing or noticing any patterns occurring. It wasn’t until Day 20 that my students began seeing/recognizing patterns, and from there the curiosity sparked.

Presently, my students, even those who experience challenges, have become intrigued. I did not introduce the vocabulary: divisibility, factors and multiples until around Day 50-60. You may ask the reason for this, and there are a couple of reasons; but the one I will give is because of grade level.

My students’ excitement sky rocketed by Day 75-80 and many of my students were taking it upon themselves to go ahead and identify factors for numbers we didn’t get to yet through math class and/or indoor recesses. The pictures below show how the students began using the hundreds charts to find the patterns and determine the factors and the colors for the circles.

As a result of this classroom work, a few students were inspired and asked for the game, Prime Climb, for Christmas and/or their birthday. We have played it in class two times and the students were fully captivated and engaged. It’s wonderful to see our young students interested in playing board games with their family and/or peers rather than sitting at video games.

The two pictures below show our Prime Climb circle patterns 1-130:

At around 110-115, the students were itching to know if they were coloring in the circles beyond 100 correctly based on the patterns to 100. I had emailed Dan Finkel, who is unbelievably passionate about mathematics. He sent me this image back.

I ask of you, are we correct? Are we incorrect? In the end, being right or wrong is the least of my concerns. What is of importance to me, is the exploration, play, curiosity, excitement, and a love of mathematics that occurred, My message to you, is trust in your own knowledge and don’t hesitate to take twists and turns in your classroom using the rich resources we find from those (including myself) who are so passionate about mathematics.

I would like to end this blog post by saying ‘thank you’ to Dan Finkel for all that I have learned from you. You have sparked the curiosity of my students and myself. My own learning and understanding, along with my students has benefited immensely from your passion with mathematics.

If you haven’t heard of Dan Finkel and his work, I strongly encourage you to take the time to check out his website, Math4Love .

Your Turn!

Have you ever tried to use the Prime Climb activities like these? What were your results?

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