Let's Operate: vocabulary of mathematical operations task cards & printables set

Grade Levels
3rd, 4th, 5th
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“What’s difference mean again?” Never hear this question again after your students work with this set of task cards and resource materials that focus on the vocabulary of computation – sum, difference, product, and quotient. Your students will be challenged to reason about number relationships as the work through the multiple choice and short answer questions on the 32 task cards in this set. Evaluate their understanding (or extend their practice!) with the four included assessment activities. With this “print-and-go” resource, you’ll have everything you need to develop, strengthen, and assess your students’ understanding of computational vocabulary.

• foldable reference sheet
• 32 task cards
• task card answer sheet and key
• 4 assessment activities
• rubric and answer key for assessment activities

About the Cards

I designed these cards to help reinforce the vocabulary of the operations, specifically the terms “difference”, “sum”, “product”, and “quotient.” Every year I have been frustrated at the number of my fourth graders who, when presented with an activity that asked them to find the “difference” or “product” of numbers, would ask, “What’s difference again?” I needed a resource that would allow the students to practice distinguishing between these terms, but do so in a way that was more rigorous than simply having to find a difference, sum, product, or quotient of numbers.

These cards present multiple-choice and short answer questions for students to respond. Most questions use at least two of the four operation terms, and about half of the questions use all four of the terms. Over half of the multiple choice questions are ones that have more than one correct answer, with the language of those questions indicating to the students that they should “select all [answers] that apply.” I chose the numbers so that students could use mental math when completing the cards. The majority of numbers used in the problems are 12 or lower, with most multiplication and division involving basic facts. In addition, the numbers were selected so the numbers themselves would not give any indication of the particular operation. For example, students might be asked to find the value of the expression “the difference of 24 and 3” but not “the difference of 10 and 3”. Any of the four operations could be used with the numbers 24 and 3 and result in a whole number, but 10 and 3 could not be divided without resulting in a remainder. I wanted to make sure that the numbers themselves weren’t cuing my students to select a particular operation over another, but that the students had to know the meaning of the word “difference” in order to arrive at the correct answer.

Please check out the preview to see all of the materials up close!

Using the Cards

There are lots of ways in which you can implement the task cards. You can have the students work on them independently, working through the task cards on their own. The students can work on them in pairs or small groups, completing all the task cards in one session. You can use them in centers, having the students complete 6-8 task cards a day over the course of the week. You can even use them as a variation of “problem of the day”, giving each student 1 sheet of 4 cards to glue in their journals and solve, one sheet per day for eight days.

Reinforcing the Concept

The printables include a foldable reference sheet and two different assessment activities. The reference sheet has the four operational terms used on the cards, a definition of each term, and examples of verbal and numeric expressions to match the terms. Your students can glue the reference sheet in their journal and then use it as a guide while they work on the cards, as well as when they complete other tasks that relate to solving word problems. There are photos to show how the foldable is to be cut and folded.

Assessing Student Understanding

The four provided activity sheets can be used to evaluate student understanding of distinguishing among the four operational terms. The four pages are formatted similarly, and have similar types of questions, though the numbers on each are different. You can use these activity pages in a variety of ways. Since the questions on the activity sheets are similar to those used on the cards, you could give one as a pre-test, then teach your lesson and allow students to practice with the task cards, and then give a second worksheet as an independent post-test. You could also have the students work on the task cards, then complete one of the sheets as guided practice with yourself, a partner, or a small group, and then give the second page as an independent assessment. You might pre-test with one sheet, have your students work on the first half of the cards, then give a second assessment to see which students have mastered the concepts and which still needs to practice, and have some students complete the rest of the cards as practice, giving one of the remaining activity sheets to those students when they have completed all the cards. The pages could also be given as homework, center assignments, or any other purpose that fits your teaching style or classroom routines. There is a key, as well as scoring guide and rubric, to help make grading as easy as possible.

For more practice with whole number computation and multiplication concepts, please check out the other related resources I have available –

Equine Quotients - dividing whole numbers task cards & printables (set a)

Hit the Slopes: mental division of large numbers task cards & printables (set a)

Snow Bonds: x and ÷ with multiples of 10 task cards & printables (set b)

Snow Bonds: +, –, x, and ÷ number relationships task cards & printables (set a)

Comparison Conundrums math story problems task cards + printables (set a)

Snow Bonds: +, –, x, and ÷ number relationships task cards & printables (set a)

Comparison Conundrums math logic problems task cards + printables (set c)

I hope your students enjoy these resources and are able to build their proficiency with the vocabulary of mathematical operations. – Dennis McDonald
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Let's Operate: vocabulary of mathematical operations task
Let's Operate: vocabulary of mathematical operations task
Let's Operate: vocabulary of mathematical operations task
Let's Operate: vocabulary of mathematical operations task