If you’re like me, you’ve struggled with sending math homework home. When I first started teaching, I went with the team and sent home nightly homework that was associated with the math program we were using, and helped students to review/ practice the skill of the day. There was a huge pressure for students to be independent after just the first day, and it caused more stress than anything else.
It was soon after this that I began to read about how ineffective this type of homework is. In fact, the most meaningful homework assignments, I believe, are more related to fluency. They require repeated practice and familiar routines.
When I asked families to read with their children as a method of encouraging literacy and building reading fluency, they knew what to do…. but when I asked many families to practice math facts, they asked for worksheets, or websites where they could find worksheets. Don’t get me wrong, there are some worksheets that can support building math fluency, such as color by code pages, but the whole idea of scrapping the homework thing was that students would be able to have more time to be kids and play. I wanted them to engage with their family and environment when they got home.
Here’s one way I found to help solve the problem!
I created little Math Buddy Bags to send home.
These bags have general materials to use to play basic games to build fact fluency! Many of the items can be purchased, or you can just print and make your own to save a little!
The students bring these bags home, along with a few game ideas (I usually type them up on half sheets or quarter sheets so they fit right into the bag). They have the materials they need in their bags to practice math facts and play some basic games.
How to Build a Math Buddy Bag
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I like to put all the items inside a pencil case. I actually prefer the Binder Pencil Pouch with Zipper, but I’ve also used the Plastic Snap-Close Pencil Box for this type of thing. If you get really fancy you could make fancy (even fancier) or personalized bags with a little help of some basic vinyl and your Cricut Explore Air 2 if you have one!
You can include whichever dice are appropriate for your students. You can send home regular 6 sided Dice, Ten Sided Dice, or whichever combination makes the most sense for your students. In first grade they regularly used both the 6 and 10 sided dice. If possible, it’s good to send home two of each, but if you don’t have enough just include having them roll two times if you’re looking for a Roll and Record type of game.
Playing cards are an awesome classroom resource. Whether you want to purchase some Playing Cards for a quick and easy addition to your bag, or make some of your own, they are great for students to play matching games with, go fish (or fish for a 10), Addition War etc. I have created a very basic set of numbered cards you can print for your students if you’d rather. You can also get fancy and send home a set of 10 frame cards, or cards with higher numbers as you work to increase fluency.
This is another great way to differentiate for students. You can choose to send home different spinners with a variety of numbers on them to add to their buddy bags. I like to create my own, print, laminate and send them home. If you would rather purchase some, these Six-Color Spinners are great because you can add whatever numbers you’d like to them!
I’ve also included spinners with numbers to 5 and numbers to 10 for free HERE In my Math buddy bag accessories file.
Half Page Dry Erase Recording Page and Marker
I like to laminate a sheet of paper, cut it down so it’ll fit in the bags, and include it with a dry erase marker as a work mat or recording sheet. If you’d like, you could include a second half page in case they’re going to be playing a partner game with someone at home. I like to send home a dry erase marker.
I also sometimes include things like a 10 frame if it relates to a strategy we’re using, a Dry Erase Number Line Sheets, or Unifix Cubes or Two-Color Counters. I had the children bring their bags back into school each Friday and I made sure if I wanted to change anything out or add new game directions in, I could!