Provide Massive Space to notice

massive space to notice

Give students several copies of the same image – along with ample space to notice – and they will amaze you.  In this post, you’ll be taken on a tour of noticing.  At the end of the video, you’ll find a page which you can download and use with your students.  I encourage you to show the video to your class, pause it at the strategic point I’ve indicated in the recording, and then give your students massive space to notice.  When you are finished, if you have an opportunity, send me a picture of the student thinking that emerges in your classroom.  I’d love to post several of those pictures to the blog.



To download the PDF described in the video, simply click on the link below.


Download the Massive Space to Notice Dot Pattern.



A similar post that may interest you is “8 Animated Dots and 1 Powerful Question.”


You may also enjoy the post Stepping Into Each Other’s Classrooms or the animated series which describes some strategies to make it happen: The Animated Learning Walks Series.


In upcoming posts, I’ll detail how to quickly and easily make several dot patterns, such as the one in the video.  If you are interested in a jump start on that concept, I encourage you to take a quick look at How to Make Quick Subitizing Images + 3 Free Resources.


Further Notes

I’m impressed by these responses from Matt Hardman’s (@mdhardm) students in Georgia.  I hadn’t thought to adjust the orientation to see more possibilities, but as soon as I saw what Matt’s students had done, I immediately learned something new.  Thank you for sharing these pictures!


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  1. Marnie on July 6, 2020 at 2:53 pm

    Hi! I’m a 4th grade math teacher + math specialist. I watched this with my almost-6-year-old daughter – who does lots of cool math with me at home – and she said, “That was a really great math video.” High praise from the kindergarten crowd!

  2. Shelley on January 13, 2020 at 3:36 pm

    I did this activity in my virtual setting (online in meeting software) with two different special education students that are in 7th grade. It was awesome! So fun. Great to challenge them to explain their thinking and to get them to see so many different ways! We even wrote the equations that represented how they saw the dots, then we compared the equations and dot patterns to one another. I did both students’ lessons back to back and with nine dot patterns only two patterns were identical. Both thought about the patterns in entirely different ways! This was such an easy and rewarding activity!

  3. Shea Stehm on June 8, 2016 at 11:16 am

    Always providing awesome resources! Love it!

    • on June 9, 2016 at 11:46 am

      Thanks for the note, Shea! I appreciate your taking time to read the blog. I anticipate having several new resources posted as we move into the new school year.

  4. Susan Thompson on April 19, 2016 at 6:39 pm

    Matt Hardman shared your site with many of us and I have been using your sheets for a couple of weeks with great success. They are so easy to differentiate between grades. In first grade- just today- I wanted to add a little art to our math. The kids created pictures out of their groups of dots. Then they began to create groups that they could turn into math sentences. They had a great time and really made some fantastic visuals in their space. I have a few pics if you would like. (Matt inspired me to share.) ???? @mindsonfire2000

    • on May 9, 2016 at 7:43 pm

      Hi, Susan. I’m glad to hear you have been using them with great success, and also to hear that you are able to differentiate so easily. Yes, I would love to see the pictures! It’s always great to have windows into other classrooms and to have opportunities to see student thinking. Thank you for reaching out to me.

  5. erin on April 12, 2016 at 5:26 am

    I am curious what grade level you would suggest for this activity.

    • on May 9, 2016 at 7:41 pm

      Hi, Erin. I really think you could use this across a wide range of grade levels. Student K-5 and beyond can certainly draw value from it. To use it at other grade levels, I would focus on the connecting either the expressions to the representations, or the expressions to other expressions. One way to do this is the simply copy a completed page (you can complete it yourself, if you would like) and then cut the expressions apart from the representations. Then allow the students to reconnect them. They may discover many insights that you weren’t expecting as they combine the images with the expressions.

  6. @Mama2pearls1 on March 27, 2016 at 7:59 pm

    Thanks for tagging me! Love this and have definitely been blown away with student interpretations when they are given space to think and share. Will try to use in a classroom – we begin state testing this week, so hopefully I will remember to pull this out afterward, but at the moment I am not sure what I will be doing when testing ends (in May)!

    • on March 27, 2016 at 8:13 pm

      Teresa, thank you for posting this comment. I agree – When students have space to notice and interpret the results are astonishing. I really hope this will be a useful resource to you as you move into the final part of the school year. I plan to post a few more in this series and then will have several other resources to share out after that. When you do use this with your student, I would love to see and post pictures of their work.

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