Category Archives: 2nd grade

Exploring fractions with “The doorbell rang” by Pat Hutchins

You may know the author Pat Hutchins and her books for young children, such as Rosie’s Thedoorbellrangwalk, Changes changes, Clocks and more Clocks, etc. I bought a few when my children Rosie and Tom were younger, and “The doorbell rang” was one of them. I had almost forgotten about them, until I recently heard Rosie, second grade, say:

“I recognize this book ! We read it in math today !”

So we read it again. The text is attractive as it includes predictable sentences that young children enjoys repeating out loud. And for older kids, the story opens the door to math. Ma made cookies for her two children, Sam and Victoria to share (equally). The doorbell rings, and two more children, Tom and Hannah come and share the cookies. As the doorbell keeps riging, more children come to share the cookies, until twelve children have to share the twelve cookies.

As I was reading the story, Rosie modeled it. She used flashcards to represent the cookies, similarly to what she has been doing with Time 4 Fractions.

  1. At the beginning of the story, Sam and Victoria gets 6 cookies each. How many cookies has Ma baked?
  2. Now that they have to share the 12 cookies among 6 children, how many cookies does each child get?

6 children sharing 12 cookies equally: each child gets 2 cookies

But a fun activity we added was to twist the story a little, and work not only with whole numbers, but also fraction. You may want to give it a try. I just let my child make sense of the problem, whether using paper to cut, or buttons to count, or the base Ten Blocks. Sometimes, she connects her model to symbols she has learned at school. But the goal is to let her make sense of the problem.

  1. What if Tom does not want any cookie, i.e. three children share the twelve cookies, how many cookies does each child get ?

  2. What if Peter does not want any cookie, i.e. five children share twelve cookies many cookies does each child get ?

  3. What if Tom, Peter and Victoria do not want any cookie i.e. nine children share twelve cookies many cookies does each child get ?


9 children sharing 12 cookies: each child gets 1 whole cookie, and 1/3 of a cookie (or equivalents)

I always look for opportunities for my children to have fun exploring problems, and make sense of them.  “The doorbell rang” sure is a neat book to create such opportunities.

Give it a try ! I am here if you have any questions !

Field trip to Timeland

My daughter has been working on reading time at School. When we did one of our WedWoPro problems on time (here), I could tell that she was  quite curious about it. She started asking questions about clocks: do they all have numbers? Do they all have 2 hands? Are they all round?

Why don’t we go on a field trip, Rosie?

Now, hearing “field trip” always works like magic with my kids.  When? Where? What do we need to bring? Could we have a picnic there?

Saturday. Craft store. Camera. Well…

If your child is talking about time, give it a try. It is a lot of fun, and of course, any store with a large selection of clocks will do.

We saw numerous of clocks …


… found additional topics to discuss… (e.g. How about these, Rosie? How do they relate to clocks ?)


… and as often with field trips, unexpected moments of excitement… a number line,  right in front of us (I know, looks more like a ruler to me, may be time to find an activity to connect number lines and rulers 🙂

Number line

We ended up with the plan of making our own clock. A Summer project, I reckon.


We sure will continue our exploration of time, who knows where it is going to take us.



Making sense of subtracting in column

I thought I should complete my latest post,  making sense of adding in column (here), with a quick post on using Base Ten blocks to make sense of subtracting in column. My daughter is not there yet, but your child may be.

The picture above presents a concrete illustration of 43 – 15. It is quite helpful for kids to visualize that, when subtracting 15 to 43, they trade a Ten from the Ten column into Ones. Then, they can subtract 5 Ones to 13 Ones, 1 Ten to 3 Tens, and end up with 2 Tens and 8 Ones i.e. 28.


I just spent the morning in my son’s classroom. He is 4 and attends a Montessori school. Their approach to teaching math is amazing. Indeed, using concrete objects, little 4-5 years old kiddos solve 4-digits addition without even thinking about it.  I should write a special post on the Montessori approach to Math. Quite inspiring, indeed.


Making sense of adding in column

Rosie, my 1st grader, came back from School recently talking about adding 2-digit numbers in column.

Adding in column 23 + 14 ?  3 +4 = 7, 2 + 1 = 3… so the answer is 37. Adding 37 + 44 ?  7 +4 = 11, 3 + 4 = 7… so the answer is 711. Wait, Mom. It does not make sense, doesn’t it?

Nope, Rosie, 711 doesn’t seem to make sense. So let’s step back an inch, with the Base Ten Blocks (click here if you want to read more about these blocks).


Here is an example of 32 +23, and the connection between the blocks, and the addition in column. While adding in column, you add the Ones, then the Tens, then the Hundreds, and so on, and the blocks provide a neat concrete representation of such process. Indeed, it shows why you have to “align” digits (because if you don’t, you end up adding Ones to Tens !).


But what I like the most with these blocks is how they  help children  make sense of carrying an over to the next column. Here is an example with 37 +44.


From the 11 Ones you get from the right column (i.e. the Ones column 7+4), you trade 10 Ones from 1 Ten that you carry over to the left column (i.e. the Tens column).

Here you go, Rosie, 711 does not make sense, but 8 Tens 1 Ones aka 81 does.


How I support my child exploring word problems at home

I don’t really teach my daughter math. Well, sometimes I do, informally, when  the perfect opportunity to strengthen and connect a math skill to real life comes up, but most of the time, I don’t. I trust her teachers.

But there is one thing I try to make sure : that she has plenty of opportunities to explore math concepts at her pace. Away from peer pressure, or time pressure, she can model, draw, write equations. Few minutes here and there. Once a week.

I recently made a video of how we do that, with the example of my child exploring one of the Time 4 Fractions problems (Problem 10) in a meaningful way for her as recommended in Carpenter et al., 2014. And her Mom following her reasoning. Now, bear with me, it is quite unnatural to me to speak English to my child, but I thought the video could help you see what our journeys, such as Time 4 Fractions, or WedWoPro are about.

Enjoy !


  • Carpenter, T., Fennema, E., Franke, M., Levi, L. and Empson S. (2014). Children’s Mathematics, Second Edition: Cognitively Guided Instruction. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. ISBN-13:978-0325052878.

Click # 8 – Numeral recognition

Spotting anything related to Math, and take a picture of it : “Click” is a quick picture-post to help you show our kids that Math is indeed all around.

When numeral recognition does not help much 🙂





Click # 7 – On the French highway

Spotting anything related to Math, and take a picture of it : “Click” is a quick picture-post to help you show our kids that Math is indeed all around.

Welcome to France where the metric system  is used everywhere !

How many feet before the left lane ends ? How many yards?