KinderGals: Making the Most of Unifix Cubes

## Monday, October 24, 2016

### Making the Most of Unifix Cubes

Do you have boxes of unifix cubes stored in your closet? Are you trying to figure out how to use them for more than making patterns? Then, this post is for you! In this post I will share some activities that Michele and I created to teach ALL of the Math Standards!
For each of the 5 mathematical strands I will share an engaging unifix cube activity that your kids can do totally independently! At the bottom of the post, I share how Michele and I ensure success!
First let's look at counting. Here are the standards we used to guide our ideas.
Common Core Kindergarten standard: CC4a: When counting objects, say the number names in the standard order, pairing each object with one and only one number name and each number name with one and only one object.
Common Core First Grade standard: NBT1: Count to 120, starting at any number less than 120. In this range, read and write numerals and represent a number of objects with a written numeral.
NCTM standard for both grades: 1A- Understand numbers, ways of representing numbers, relationships among numbers, and number systems.
This is a super simple activity to practice counting and subitizing.
• Use a long piece of yarn and a pipe cleaner to make lacing string.
• Tie a unifix cube to the bottom of the piece of yarn.
• Invite the children to roll a dice.
• They count that many unifix cubes to lace onto their string.
• Consider using a 12 sided dice for counting sets with a larger quantity.
Now, let's look at shapes. Here are the standards we used to guide our ideas.
Common Core Kindergarten standard: KGA: Identify and describe shapes. KGB: Analyze, compare, create, and compose shapes.
Common Core First Grade standard: 1GA: Reason with shapes and their attributes
NCTM standards for both grades: Standard 3A: Analyze characteristics and properties of two- and three-dimensional geometric shapes and develop mathematical arguments about geometric relationships.
To play this game here is what you do.
• Provide the children with a variety of shapes.
• Be sure to consider the size of the shape. This will determine how many cubes they will be counting.
• Invite the children to lay cubes around the edge of the shape.
• Once they finish, they count the cubes and record the number on the recording page.
Now, let's look at measurement. Here are the standards we used to guide our ideas.
Common Core Kindergarten standard: MD1-Describe measurable attributes of objects, such as length or weight. Describe several measurable attributes of a single object. MD2-Directly compare two objects with a measurable attribute in common, to see which object has "more of"/"less of" the attribute, and describe the difference.
Common Core First Grade standard: MD2 Express the length of an object as a whole number of length units, by laying multiple copies of a shorter object (the length unit) end to end; understand that the length measurement of an object is the number of same-size length units that span it with no gaps or overlaps.
NCTM standards for both grades: Standard 4- 4A: Understand measurable attributes of objects and the units, systems, and processes of measurement. 4B: Apply appropriate techniques, tools and formulas to determine measurements.
This is a great partner game for early finishers. I don't use a recording page for this activity. Here's how you play.
• Give each child a partner.
• Each child counts out 10 cubes and snaps them together.
• Invite the children to put the cubes behind their backs and say, "1,2,3 break."
• The children each place the unifix cubes in their right hand on the game board,  comparing for taller and shorter.
• Lay the cubes in the left hand on the table.
• Whichever child has "shorter", spins the spinner.
• If it lands on shorter, than the children with the shorter ice cream gets all of the cubes on the game board.
• If it lands on taller, than the children with the taller ice cream gets all of the cubes.
• When one child has all of the cubes, he places them on taller.
• The child with no cubes, spins the spinner.
• If it lands on shorter, the child with no cubes is the winner.
• It is lands on taller, the child with all of the cubes is the winner.
Now, let's look at composing and decomposing number. Here are the standards we used to guide our ideas.
Common Core Kindergarten standard: KOA.A: Understand addition as putting together and adding to, and understand subtraction as taking apart and taking from.
Common Core First Grade standard: 1OA.A: Represent and solve problems involving addition and subtraction. OA.C: Add and subtract within 20
NCTM standards for both grades: Standard 1- 1A; Understand numbers, ways of representing numbers, relationships among numbers, and number systems. 1B: Understand meanings of operations and how they relate to one another. 1C: Compute fluently and make reasonable estimates.
Here is an easy activity for composing a number 11-19.
• Give each child a stem game board.
• Invite them to use 10 green cubes to make the stem.
• Roll a dice (1-9).
• Count out cubes to match the number on the dice. (all one color of cube)
• Use the cubes to make a flower.
• Take the flower apart, and place the cubes on the tens frames.
• Record the number on the recording page.
Now, let's look at adding, subtracting and number combinations. Here are the standards we used to guide our ideas.
Common Core Kindergarten standard: KOA.A: Understand addition as putting together and adding to, and understand subtraction as taking apart and taking from.
Common Core First Grade standard: 1OA.A: Represent and solve problems involving addition and subtraction. OA.C: Add and subtract within 20
NCTM standards for both grades: Standard 1- 1A; Understand numbers, ways of representing numbers, relationships among numbers, and number systems. 1B: Understand meanings of operations and how they relate to one another. 1C: Compute fluently and make reasonable estimates.
Here is how you play.
• Give each child a ladder fives frame.
• Invite the children to roll a dice. (You may want to cover the 6 dots with a colored dot.)
• Count unifix cubes to match the dice.
• Put the cubes on the ladder fives frame.
• Decide how many more you need to make a 5 by filling in the empty squares on the ladder with another color cube.
Here's how to use patterns to teach addition.
• Give each child a strip (no longer than 10 cubes long).
• Invite the children to select a pattern card.
• Make the pattern on the strip.
• Record the pattern on the recording page by gluing down squares.
• Take the pattern apart and sort the colors.
• Write the number sentence.
Here's how to play.
• Invite each child to select a picture card.
• Use the unifix cubes to make the picture.
• Count how many cubes and record on the recording page.
• Roll a dice.
• Subtract that many cubes from your picture.
• Finish the recording page to write the subtraction sentence.
Ever share an idea with someone that worked perfectly in your room only to have them tell you it was a disaster in theirs? There are many reasons that could happen, but one that I see a lot is some teachers provide more scaffolding for their kids than others. Teachers that provide scaffolding, ensure the child's ability to engage in meaningful activities independently. Here's how Michele and I do that...
First let me tell you....my friend Michele is super smart! She is the best lesson scripter...hands down! Her plans are so detailed, that we can easily share them with other teacher with very little direction beyond the script! This lesson plan is for one activity!!!!!
Here is how we conduct our math block.
First...I do...this is where the teacher models. So in our activity, Which is Taller?, it would sound like this...

I do (Teacher models):
Tell students that today they will get to do an activity that will require them to work with a partner and to compare two things to see which is taller. Remind students what taller and shorter means by comparing the height of two students in the class. Next ask a student to come up and pose as your partner for this fun activity.
Ask your partner to count out 10 unifix cubes and connect them into a train. You will need to do the same. Show students the taller/shorter mats (hammer and popsicle). Model how you and your partner can put the cube trains behind your backs and break it in two. Each one of you should pull one hand out from behind your back and place that one stack of cubes on the comparing mat (either the hammer or popsicles- you chose). The other part of the ten train should be discarded for now. Next look at the comparing mat and compare the two stacks of cubes. Which is taller? Which is shorter? Next ask students whose stack should win? They will inevitably say the stack that is taller should be the winner, but you should tell them that we have a better way to figure out who will win. We will spin to see who wins! Show them the spinner that corresponds to the mat you chase to use. The person that will spin to determine the winner is the person who had a shorter stack. If it lands on shorter, the person with the shorter stack is the winner, If it lands on taller, the person with the taller stack is the winner. Re-form your ten train and model this several more times.
Afterward, ask your students to think of what you just did. Call on students to tell what you did first, next, and finally. Now show the students the “I can” chart for this activity and review the steps.
Then, We do...this is where the children try the activity on their own with your support. It sounds like this...
We do (Students do with teacher support):
Now it’s time for the students to try this with your support and guidance. Quickly divide the students into groups of 4 and give each group one tub of unifix cubes. Divide each group into partnerships. Have the students gather around each tub. Give each partnership and comparing card and a corresponding spinner. Ask each student to create a train of 10 unifix cubes. They should
then place the stack behind their backs at the same time and say “break” and break their stack in two. Each student should then pull one hand out from behind their back and place their stack on the comparing mat. Both students should then look at the mat and determine who has the taller stack and who has the shorter stack. The person with the shorter stack should spin the spinner to see who wins. Circulate around the groups and watch as students are playing the game. Step in if students need your assistance or guidance.

Next, You do...this is where the children try the activity on their own with your support. It sounds like this...

You do (Students will work independently):
Now you will allow students to work independently on this activity. Move the student groups further away from each other to help students concentrate when so many are playing at the same time. Remind students to use whisper voices so that they do not disturb other groups. Allow students to continue working with the partner they have been working with or you can mix them up if you choose. Instruct students to continue playing the game that you taught them.

Last, is the closure. This is when you pull the children back together to discuss the activity and resolve any problems. It sounds like this...

Closure (Discuss the activity):
Ask students to think about the activity they just did. How did it go? What went right? What problems did they encounter? Ask student volunteers to answer these questions. Determine how to solve any problems by asking for solutions from the students. (Ex. If a student had difficulty being a good partner, what would the students suggest as a solution?
These activities, and many more, are from our Unifix Cubes unit. You can find the unit here.