Sunday, October 1, 2017

Anchor of 5

A successful math program for children will have an emphasis on number sense as its foundation. Number sense is a natural part of all other strands (e.g., geometry, patterning, data management). Exploring number relationships help children build fluency, accuracy and confidence. Five frames provide a visual reference to the anchor of 5. Five is a 'friendly number' for children. They associate five with the most natural of math 'manipulatives' that they always have available...fingers on one hand! The number system that we use in Canada encourages an understanding of place value that is dependent on groupings of 10, and understanding groups of 5 will evolve into 10. This is a key foundation for future place value work. Here is a review of some of our math work this week. 

Read alouds
We used many engaging, patterned texts during our whole group circle time that focused on groups of 5. In books like 'Five Busy Beavers' a group of 5 beavers slowly decreases to 1 as each beaver leaves the water for other adventures. Children can see the group decrease by 1 each time, and predict what the new number will be. They can subitize the new number as they observe the number of beavers on each page, or follow along and use their fingers to chant along with the text. This book can then be added to a math centre where manipulatives can be provided to further enhance the text and encourage children to play with the numbers 1 through 5.

A Number Station

During free choice time the children had the opportunity to visit a math centre where various manipulatives and tools were made available for children to play with the numbers. A number line, wooden and mirror numbers, five frames, finger tracers, and natural materials were available for children to explore. Students matched, counted, sorted, patterned, and ordered the manipulatives, often composing groups of 5.

Morning Message

Each morning we start our day with a morning message. One of the most important words that children first learn to read and write are their names (their own, and those of their peers). We used our 'star of the day' to model how our names fit into five frames (and sometimes beyond the five frame if the name has more than five letters). This helped us conceptualize the anchor of five and also introduced some concepts of print too (e.g., that words are composed of letters and that letters represent sounds).

Number Line

We brought a number line outdoors with us during our outdoor play time. It was interesting to see how the children created their own games without adult prompting. Some children gathered natural materials and placed them next to the numbers (e.g., 7 stones next to the number 7). Others used the line as a tool in a jumping game, starting at the 0 and seeing who could jump the furthest and reach the biggest number!

How Many are Hiding?

Whole group time is also a great opportunity to introduce meaningful math games that children can then play in small groups or during free choice play time. To help children compose to the anchor of five, we used a group of five unifix cubes. Children are first shown the five in a line. The player then hides some cubes behind his/her back and shows the group the remaining cubes. The group has to calculate how many cubes are hidden, encouraging them to subitize and compose to the anchor of 5. They indicate the missing quantity by holding their fingers up to the player who then reveals the missing quantity.


We love to sing each day. Our children loved the fingerplay "Five Little Monkeys Swinging in a Tree". To enrich the experience with meaningful math, we added a magnetic five frame to the song. As the children sang along and used their fingers to decompose the number 5 to 1, we removed counters from the frame as they count. During play time many children enjoyed leading their peers in a singing of the song!

Pentomino Challenge

Pentominoes are a wonderful math manipulative that encourage spatial reasoning and use an anchor of five as each unique piece is created using five small squares. A challenge that encouraged perseverance and spatial logic this week involved challenging the children to fill a standard cookie tray with pieces, leaving no gaps in the puzzle. 

We love learning from others! Share your favourite math activities that encourage an exploration of the anchor of 5 in the comments below!

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