Paper, pencils and playing cards

Kevin Reinthal, Lucas Schools, explains a game he created to other Math Teacher Leaders during a professional development session.

A life-long love of teaching has led to some innovative ways to reach and engage children. Kevin Reinthal taught in a fourth-grade classroom in the Lucas school district for 25 years. He now serves as a Math Teacher Leader for the school district.

Reinthal spends half of his time in a kindergarten classroom, and the remainder working with teachers to develop activities that engage the students in the math concepts they are studying.  These games are used to introduce new concepts to students, and reinforce those that they have already seen.  Reinthal has developed half a dozen games already by looking for common activities that can be adapted to fit the needs of the classroom.

“One of the teachers had brought in a gameboard with a circle,” he said. “I immediately thought, ‘we can make that into a place value activity where we change the number of sections in each circle to have base four, base six, or base ten, and you could work with the primary kids just by playing that game.’ It reinforces the idea that the value of a digit is different according to where it is in the number.”

Reinthal’s games have ranged from supporting primary students in their understanding of place value, to approaching fourth-grade division with the use of low-tech, easy to find items, such as playing cards and paper and cardstock instead of tradition manipulative materials such as base ten blocks. Not only are these games helpful to the students in learning the math content, but they also make math an enjoyable subject for them to learn. They provide a way for the students to be actively involved in their own learning, and they can be modified to use in many different grades.

Reinthal’s most recent work is being done with subtraction using a number line. Rather than approaching subtraction with the common removal method, the number line is used to compare the distance between two numbers.  These games that Reinthal creates provide exciting new ways of looking at and learning math concepts in the classroom, and many other teachers in the MLI cohorts are beginning to use them in their district schools too.

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