Number of the Day Guide

Posted: August 24, 2020 | Updated: August 24, 2020
Created by: Ms. Sylvia

Why It’s Needed

“Math is the language of the universe. So the more equations you know, the more you can converse with the cosmos.” - Neil deGrasse Tyson

The math we know, the more joy and discovery we can have in mathematics -- at any age!

So often, our math education emphasizes memorization over meaning and speed over understanding. For many of us, this can give the impression that math is entirely about memorization and dry facts.

Not to say that memorization isn’t important. When we know facts easily and accurately, it frees us up to be more creative with our mathematical thinking. Yes, math is orderly and factual, but it is also about exploration and discovery. Mathematical thinking should involve approaching a problem methodically, but also creatively. When we simply memorize a fact, a formula, or a process, we do not truly learn math.

This Number of the Day challenge helps us flex that muscle of mathematical creativity. The more advanced your knowledge, the more advanced your ways of “building” a number can become!

What I really love about this activity, though, is the discussion it can generate. As students explain their thinking and listen to others’ thinking, they see that others can arrive at the same answer through different strategies. They can find mistakes in their work and, so much more importantly, understand how the mistake was generated and how to avoid it next time. They can hear new strategies and, even better, integrate them the next day. They can discover mathematical laws and properties independently and, thereby, deeply understand them.

One example of a property even very young students often learn deeply through this activity is the commutative property, which tells us that we can change the order of the numbers to one side of the equation and get the same result (i.e. 3+2 = 5 AND 2+3=5, 2x3=6 AND 3x2=6). The more they use the “Number of the Day”, the more fluent they become in using this property. The more fluent they become, the more creative they can be in their mathematical thinking and the more easily they will grasp future concepts.

It may be that students won’t be able to think of many options at first; that is fine! Encourage them to use manipulatives (objects that can represent the numbers they are building). Hours after they first write their answers to the Number of the Day, return to it. I like to bookend my day with this, when teaching. Students begin their school day by silently writing their own answers and they end the day by sharing the answers they came up with in the morning. They would discuss and write down each others’ ideas. We would sometimes name a strategy after someone who used it frequently, which empowered the “inventor” of the strategy and also helped the whole class to remember them. Even if you are doing this with only your child, the discussion portion of this activity is when the most learning and growth can happen. I’ll have more to share about that discussion (referred to in education as number talk) soon!

Game Instructions