When I think of tricky math for my fourth Graders … I think EXPONENTS!

Introducing exponents was a math concept that I was dreading because I had a feeling that my students would fall into the rookie pattern of multiplying the base with the exponent. Much to my delight, my Fourth Graders mastered exponents rather quickly when I slowed the lessons down and really took the time to explain the purpose of exponents.  Considering that the PEMDAS lesson (“Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally” or my personal favorite “Purple Elephants May Destroy A School“) was in our next unit, I knew we had to invest in some extra practice before moving on.

Introducing vocabulary words like “base”, “exponent”, “expanded notation”, “powers”, and “standard notation” was an important start to this introduction.  This YOUTUBE video has such a catchy beat.  My students and I were jamming and singing along all day long.

This reference chart that I created helped the students to visually see that exponents are a way of expressing repeated multiplication. I posted this handy chart on our Math Anchor Wall as well as made a mini version to add to the students’ math reference folder. I love visuals and can’t get enough of them!  It was actually only recently that I realized that I am actually a visual learner.  I really need to see things in print or pictures to make a connection and commit new information to my long term memory – wish I knew that in middle school French when the entire class was oral and I struggled to write everything the teacher said phonetically as soon as the class was finished 😉

Lots of oral practice on our white boards helped my fourth graders master that exponents squared (to the 2nd power) does not mean times two but is rather a shortcut telling how many times the base number is being multiplied – in this case two times. I would start each day with a simple review and exponent practice only to scaffold and increase each problem’s difficulty slowly.
Moving onto exponent practice worksheets was tons of fun when the students practiced using color by number activities, tic tac toe games, flash card games, true and false activities and Exponent Number Puzzles.
I love introducing math concepts to my students with lots of practice opportunities and then giving them the chance to independently explore through fun games, coloring activities and sorts.  I love to see them get excited to work in class but not realizing that they are still actually practicing and learning.  I have even taken the time to create differentiated practice pages with multiple choice answers like the one below.
I also created several Exponent Practice Worksheets that are fun and engaging for my students that incorporate Halloween and Christmas.  I never miss an opportunity to have the kids practice more exponent activities during the holidays. They love coloring and learning at the same time!