When I
teach or spiral for rounding, I begin by asking students,

“What do
you already know?”

The most
common answer is something along the lines of:

“5 or
more, up the score, 4 or less, let it rest.”

Or, they
show me their fist as they mime grasping the string of a balloon. The number stays the same, they explain, for 1,2,3,
or 4 fingers but by opening the 5

^{th}finger that leads to an open fist, the balloon flies free. The balloon rises up as does the number. (In the past, I’ve taught these two strategies and more along the same lines.)
Even
though students can often chant the rhyme or explain the balloon analogy, when
it comes to applying this to whether 0.86 should round to 0.8 or 0.9, students
struggle. Some circle the number to be
rounded and underline the digit to its right.
Others underline the number to be rounded and circle the digit to its
right or draw an arrow to the digit to its right. Why the number to the right, you ask
them? They often cannot say. Why
indeed? We know it’s because of the base
10 number system within the construct of the place value chart but students often
don’t know the underlying context.

Math is
among other things, a language of patterns and connections.
I’ve taught rhymes to help students remember yet I see now that rhymes,
albeit useful in the short term, give students a disconnected, isolated view of
math concepts, instead of capitalizing on connections. As a
result, when students don’t remember the rhyme perfectly, they can’t reason
their way through to a solution as they might if they had deeper conceptual
knowledge of the process.

I now
teach rounding using a number line and knowledge of place value.

While I enjoy creating my own videos and materials to teach concepts, there are just so many valuable tools and resources already created and available. One of those great resources that I like to use is called LearnZillion, a resource developed for Common Core. (Our district does not have a Common Core curriculum but the resources on this site can be used interchangeably with other curriculum):

While I enjoy creating my own videos and materials to teach concepts, there are just so many valuable tools and resources already created and available. One of those great resources that I like to use is called LearnZillion, a resource developed for Common Core. (Our district does not have a Common Core curriculum but the resources on this site can be used interchangeably with other curriculum):

After showing
an instructional video, I model rounding for students. As they follow along, copying modeled problems
on their white boards, I encourage them to draw a number line with 10
ticks. They use this number line
consistently by renumbering the ticks according to the problem.

I ask
questions like:

What
digit should we round?

If we
round to (tens, tenths, etc.) What should our upper limit be? What should our lower limit be? Is our number to be rounded closer to our upper limit? or lower limit? How do you know?

When we’ve
labeled our tick marks, we plot our point.

Together
we choose the limit our point is closer to.

If
students are not sure, we count the spaces (

**the intervals not the tickmarks!**) between our plotted point and the upper limit and lower limit.
I give students practice problems for independent practice to solve on their whiteboards. I encourage students to work together collaboratively and communicate while practicing. I question as they work, "How do you know?" or ask another student, "Do you agree?" "Why or why not?"

To close
the lesson, I give students an exit ticket I make on post it notes – click here
for the template: Rounding Exit Tickets.pdf

I hope
these resources are useful. I would love
to know your thoughts on rounding, teaching conceptually, or anything! Please feel free to leave a comment! Thank you for letting me share.

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