Learning Lab Resources: Numbers Between the Lines
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Numbers Between the Lines

So, you're teaching math.  You have math problem on the board and would like the students to copy it into their notebook to solve.  As you give your students time to work, you're walking around to observe what your students are doing.  Then, you happen upon to this mess.  The student wrote down all of the numbers, but the digits don't align to the correct place value.  You can tell that the student's strategy was correct in solving the problem, but because the numbers were shifted, the answer is wrong.

So....what do you do?  Do you tell the student to rewrite it correctly?  Chances are, it'll end up looking similar to the first try.

Here is my little trick.  If you have your students turn their notebook, the lines magically turn into columns!  They can nicely line everything up since one number fits in each space.  When I discovered this during my first year of teaching 3rd grade, I was stunned at how well it worked.  If I walked around and saw a student's numbers misaligned, I would say, "Flip your paper and put your numbers between the lines."  Two years later, I was moved to fifth grade.  When we worked on multiplication problems, I saw students I previously had use this strategy.  As a teacher, I bet you could imagine how happy I was to see them still applying something I taught them.


  1. Great idea :) I like to use graph paper, too :)

  2. That is perfect!! Thanks so much for sharing!

  3. This is such a simple, but fantastic idea :)
    I will have to try it with my threes.

    Mrs. Wiley
    @ Wiley Teaching