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Focus Making larger blocks that correspond to tens,
hundreds, and thousands
he Digi-Block materials enable children to discover, for themselves, the important relationship between the places in our number system. In this section, children make and name successively larger blocks while seeing that each larger block has 10 of the next-sizesmaller block inside. It is important for children to recognize that the blocks all look the same except for size. This similarity encourages them to conclude that they can operate on all the blocks in much the same way. Thus, they can count the larger blocks by ones, just as they did the single blocks.
The shape similarity among blocks of all sizes is a key feature of the Digi-Block materials.
® Making a Larger Block with Ones
Give each small group of children a container of single blocks and a few small holders. Let the children experiment with different ways to put the blocks in the holders. Children may discover on their own that they can create a larger block using these materials. If they don’t, present the task as a challenge:
How can you make a larger block using the small blocks and the holders?
Allow time for all children to build the larger blocks and to discuss how to do so. Some children may suggest that they can create a larger block by covering one holder with another even when it is not full. If no child brings this up, you should wonder aloud if that would work. Ask the children to try this and see what happens when they try to pick up such a block by one of its halves. They will discover that the cover slides or that the block falls apart—until it is full, it is not a complete block. Through this
Stand small blocks in the holder in an upright position. When the holder is full, use another holder as a cover.
design feature, the Digi-Block system ensures that there are always exactly 10 blocks inside a larger block. Now that the children have created a larger block, ask them how many small blocks are inside it. Make sure that children have many opportunities to count the number of single blocks inside, convincing themselves that the answer is always the same: 10. For many children, this idea may need to be confirmed repeatedly, over time. Tell the children, or elicit from them, that a good name for the larger block is block-of-10. It is best, at least initially, to call this item a block-of-10 rather than a ten block or ten. The preferred term emphasizes two important ideas: (1) that this object is one block, and (2) at the same time, it is made up of 10 ones. Also, refer to the holders as simply that, holders. They hold ones, but they become a blockof-10 when closed. With this duality, to call them either ones-holders or tensholders would be confusing. The single blocks may be referred to as singles or ones, whichever you prefer.
® Making Successively Larger Blocks
Just as children discovered that they could make a block-of-10, they now use the blocks to construct a block-of-100 and a block-of-1000. Give each child some blocks-of-10 and some larger holders. Ask,
How can you make a larger block using these blocks and holders?
Children will naturally mimic the way in which they packed single blocks to make a block-of-10. That is, they place blocks in the holder in an upright position. When the holder is full, they place another holder on top as a cover. As with the blocks-of-10, if the holder isn’t full, the cover slides off or the block falls apart, signaling that the block is not complete. Ask,
How many blocks-of-10 are there in one of these larger blocks?
Encourage the children to remove the cover to count. Children will need to do this repeatedly, over time, before they realize that the answer is always the same: 10. A few children may know that 10 tens is equal to 100, but many will not. Encourage the children to unpack the blocks-of-100 to blocks-of-10. At that point, they can either remove the covers and count the single blocks inside, or unpack the blocks-of-10 as well and then count the single blocks. Once they confirm that there are 100 ones, identify the block as a block-of-100. Also give children the opportunity to make a block-of-100 from a collection of single blocks. They should continue to explore the relationships among single blocks, blocks-of-10, and blocks-of-100 throughout the unit.
Some children may ask whether they can create even larger blocks. When appropriate, bring out the largest holders and have 10 children bring their blocks-of-100 to build a block-of-1000. Review the key idea that a large block must contain exactly 10 of the next-size-smaller blocks. Safety note: A block-of-1000 weighs 18 pounds. Young children should not attempt to carry it without adult supervision. Dropping this much weight could cause injury.
® Counting the Larger Blocks
Children can count any of the larger blocks in the same way as they count the single blocks. To explore this idea, have children work in pairs. One child makes a design with the single blocks and the other child copies it with the blocks-of-10. Each child then counts the blocks in his or her design. Over time, children should realize that if the larger design is identical to the smaller one except for the size of the blocks, then the number of blocks-of-10 must be the same as the number of single blocks. Children can then repeat the activity using blocks-of-10 for the original design and blocks-of-100 for the copy. These activities help children become familiar with counting more than 9 blocksof-10 or blocks-of-100, and thus with counts such as “14 blocks-of-10” and “12 blocks-of-100,” which they will need in their later work with computation.
sizes and then count the blocks, they see that larger blocks can Continue to emphasize the idea that we be counted the same way as single blocks. can count blocks-of-10 and blocks-of100 by ones as children pursue later counting activities. Whenever children count blocks-of-10 by tens (saying “10, 20, 30”) or blocks-of-100 by hundreds (saying “100, 200, 300”), always ask, When children build identical designs with blocks of different
Is there another way to count this?
Remind them that they can always count the tens or hundreds by ones, as “1, 2, 3 blocks-of-10” or “1, 2, 3, 4, 5 blocks-of-100.”
® Building Number Sense
While the size of the blocks offers powerful visual clues to the size of the numbers they represent, it is important for the children to see the number of single blocks within each larger block as well. Have a volunteer place a single block on a sheet of paper. Place a label reading “1 block” on or near the paper. Then hold up a block-of-10 and ask,
When you unpack a block-of-10, how many single blocks will there be? Will they fit on a sheet of paper this size, or do we need more paper?
When children unpack the block-of-10 and place the single blocks on the paper, put the label “10 blocks” near the arrangement. You may also want to put a packed block-of-10 nearby. Show a block-of-100, ask the same questions, and have several volunteers unpack the blocks to check. Again, label the singles “100 blocks” and place a packed block-of-100 nearby. Finally, repeat the process for a block-of-1000. Note that you will need several larger sheets of paper and plenty of surface space to do this. If possible, take pictures of each collection to display in the classroom for ongoing reference. Such pictures can serve as benchmarks that children can refer to in estimation activities throughout the year.
Practicing Key Ideas
Make a Building
Given a container of blocks-of-10, children work in pairs to make a simple building. When it is time to put the blocks away, one child removes a block-of-10 from the building while saying,“One.”The second child removes a block-of-10, saying,“Two.” Children continue to take turns removing blocks and saying the number name. When the building is completely dismantled, the children recount the blocks while putting them back into the container and give a final count such as “12 blocks-of-10.” Children may repeat the activity using blocks-of-100.
All About 100
Individually or in pairs, children gather 100 single blocks. They then investigate the blocks, comparing them to familiar items, and write about their findings. For example, they might discover facts like these:
We are taller than a row of 100 blocks (placed on edge, side by side). 100 blocks fit into my lunchbox. 100 blocks weigh less than the dictionary.
Encourage children to share their findings and perhaps place them in a class book about 100.
1. Show the child a block-of-10 and ask,
How many single blocks are inside?
Does the child • answer correctly? • count the blocks or know without counting? 2. Ask the child to make a block-of-100. Does the child • do so correctly? • count as he or she packs, or use visual clues to decide when it is full? • begin by packing singles or blocks-of-10? 3. Show the child a block-of-100 and ask,
How many blocks-of-10 are inside? How many single blocks are inside?
Does the child • answer correctly for blocks-of-10? for single blocks? • count the blocks or know without counting? 4. Show a block-of-10 and a block-of-100 and ask the child to tell how the blocks are alike and different. Does the child • describe similarities in shape and construction? • note the difference in size? • tell that each block has single blocks inside? • tell that each block has 10 of the next-size-smaller block inside? 5. Show a container of 100 loose single blocks and ask,
Is this more than 10 or less than 10 blocks?
Assuming a correct answer, ask
Is this about 100 or about 1000 blocks?
Does the child • correctly identify that there are more than 10? • correctly identify that there are about 100?
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