Brooklyn Learning Lab’s Session Routine: Set One

Online tutoring offers numerous opportunities. The platform we chose to use and the Mathematical teaching methods we employ (Number Talks and Math Talks) forces us to follow focused routines. This post contains our week one and two routines with explanations and a powerpoint document to download and use. This powerpoint document would be great for small group sessions.


We started the session with this problem and we realized the error of our ways. Children who favor traditional algorithms (nothing wrong with the method we do not discourage kids from using it) have problems seeing numbers as having flexible parts with a fixed total (this may be an unfair generalization so do not take it as an absolute fact; it is our experience). Our problem intensifies further because this problem requires a simple subtraction execution. However, if kids are not exposed to the part-total concept in schools they see this problem as an addition. {Opportunity 1 (some may see this as our failure)

Next, we added this puzzle to our routine.

(Opportunity 2) 

These two problems showed us that to answer the first question we needed to develop the part-total concept. Thus, the puzzle presented an enormous opportunity to accomplish our task.


STEP ONE: Introduce three shapes (Addition)

STEP TWO: Do the simple (find parts for a total using a number bond). We found kids sometimes use two, three, four or five parts to create their total (12= 6 + 6; 3+6+3; 7+3+2; 5+3+2+2). The goal is to have them practice building a total using different parts (Addition continues).

STEP THREE: What is different? (Subtraction introduced; part missing). In the powerpoint file, you will find shapes that have 5 parts and 6 parts to use as addition and subtraction problem models). The goal is to see if kids realize that this problem was different from the initial one. It changed from an addition to a subtraction problem based on what was given.

  1. What was given?
  2. What was not given?

STEP FOUR: Solve the problem

Now after using the first three steps the only thing to do is solve our opening problem. The problem requires the use of subtraction via understanding the part-total concept. That is all we wanted the kids to do: subtract (knowing how to subtract is useless without knowing when and for what cases; thus the need to develop concept and skill). We have used a combination of these four routines for three days now. We will continue to use these routines but with minor tweaks and additions.

This week we intend to add this piece to the above routine. The combination of addition and subtraction interchangeably.


You are welcome to use the following document and create your own routines. Brooklyn Learning Lab Part-Total.

Tricia Herbert (Educator).

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