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Using the Number Line
Focus
Using the number line to determine the number of blocks and connecting this view of number with base ten representations

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n previous sections, students have used the Counter and the Place mats to organize collections of blocks. Arranging single blocks along a number line helps students to develop a sense of numbers in relationship to one another. Yet, number lines can sometimes be confusing. Students are drawn to the hash marks, but then aren’t sure whether to count the first and last marks. The Digi-Block number lines avoid this confusion. The single blocks fit perfectly between the lines and make it obvious that students should count the blocks. The view of 123 single blocks placed on the number line and the base ten representation of 1 block-of-100, 2 blocks-of-10, and 3 ones on the Place mat present two very different images of the same number. Students should connect these two ideas and be able to move easily from one representation to another, as well as recognize that both views represent the same number.

® Finding How Many
Introduce the number lines 0–100. Have students take and count a pile of blocks. Then ask,

If you place these blocks along the number line, on their edge, where will they end?
Students mark their predictions, then place their blocks on the number line to check. Next, have students take a collection of blocks without counting them and place them along the number line. Ask,

How many blocks are there?
To explore larger numbers, you can use the number line 0–1000. As you introduce this number line, you might have students first estimate where they think a line that can show 1000 blocks will end. They can indicate their estimates by standing where they think the thousandth block will stand. Students will be excited to see where the number line will end as you roll it out. When students are ready, have them predict where a collection of single blocks will end on the unlabeled number lines. Use of these lines encourages students to notice and use the grouping by tens and hundreds, as indicated by the longer hash marks. To explore larger numbers on unlabeled lines, students can place several 0–100 lines end-to-end, attached by paper clips, or you can lead a class activity with the unlabeled side of the 0–1000 number line.
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Once students can look at a position on the unlabeled line and predict exactly what number it indicates, have them quickly estimate the location of a number such as 345. Students place a marker (paper clips of different colors work well) to show their estimate, then use the hash marks to find the exact location and compare it with their estimates.

® Connecting Two Views of a Number
Have the students represent a two- or three-digit number on the Place mat and set the Digit Flip Cards appropriately. Ask,

If we unpack the blocks and place all the singles along the number line, where will they end?
Have students mark their predictions, then unpack and check. It is important that students unpack the blocks first and then place them along the line. Although it may seem natural to place blocks-of-10 along the line, the number line view is one of single blocks. The difference is more obvious when you consider the blocks-of-100, which clearly are not 100 units long. Students should repeatedly unpack collections of blocks and place them along the line until they can predict the exact answer in advance. Next, reverse the procedure. Have students show a number of blocks on a number line and then set the Digit Flip Cards to predict how the blocks will look on the Place mat. The cards can then be turned face down so as not to distract the students while they are packing. Students pack the blocks from the number line, put them on the Place mat, and turn up the f lip cards to check that they match the number of blocks in each place. Repeat until students can predict the exact answer without actually packing the blocks. Also repeat these tasks with unlabeled number lines, which offer a greater challenge and ensure that students do more than merely match the numerals.

Practicing Key Ideas
Number Line Pack
Students work in teams of two. One team places some single blocks on the number line. The other team sets the Digit Flip Cards to predict how those blocks will look when they are packed, then turns the cards face down. The students place the blocks on the Place mat, pack as much as possible, and then turn the cards face up to check their predictions. Teams can repeat the activity many times, reversing roles.

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Place Mat Unpack
Students work in teams of two. One team places some blocks on the Place mat. The other team places a marker on the number line to predict how those blocks will look when they are unpacked. The students take the blocks from the mat, unpack, and place the single blocks along the line to check. Teams can repeat the activity many times, reversing roles.

Assessing Learning
1. Provide a collection of single blocks and ask the student to tell how many there are. Then ask,

If you place them side by side along this number line, where will they end?
Repeat, using the unlabeled side of the line. Does the student • place the blocks or predict the answer? • identify the correct number? • do so with a labeled and unlabeled number line? 2. Show a collection of single blocks placed along a number line and ask,

How many blocks are there?
Repeat, using the unlabeled side of the line. Does the student • count the blocks or rely on the number line? • identify the correct number? • do so with a labeled and unlabeled number line? 3. Ask a student to represent a number such as 236 on the Place mat. With several connected unlabeled 0–100 number lines available, ask the student to show where the blocks will end when placed on the line. Does the student • unpack the blocks or predict the answer? • identify the correct number on the number line? 4. Point to a location on the number line and ask,

How would we show this number of blocks on the Place mat?
Repeat, using the unlabeled side of the line. Does the student • place and pack the blocks or predict the answer? • identify the correct representation? • do so with a labeled and unlabeled number line?

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