Keep the End in Mind

Written by Donna Boucher

Donna has been a teacher, math instructional coach, interventionist, and curriculum coordinator. A frequent speaker at state and national conferences, she shares her love for math with a worldwide audience through her website, Math Coach’s Corner. Donna is also the co-author of Guided Math Workshop.

Recently, I read an amazing book–Small Steps, Big Changes: Eight Essential Practices for Transforming Schools Through Mathematics. Chapter 1, Keep the End in Mind, explains that for our instruction to be truly effective, we must define what success looks like.  They set the following goals for their students:

  • Think and reason effectively
  • Solve problems accurately, flexibly, and efficiently
  • Communicate clearly using mathematical language and representations
  • Demonstrate skills and knowledge on performance assessments as well as standardized tests

I love this set of goals because it brings focus to our work as teachers.  Think how powerful it would be if we kept our eye on these goals as we chose resources, planned activities, and developed assessments.

So it was with this small step in mind that I created Capture Four.  As a teacher, I love game concepts that can be used for different skills like, for instance, War.  All kids know how to play War, so you don’t have to waste time teaching them how to play it.  My idea for this type of reusable game is Capture Four.  The object of the game is to capture 4 spaces in a row horizontally, vertically, or diagonally.  For this very simple version, players roll a number cube (with dots representing the numbers) and cover a space on the board that shows the number they rolled.  There is strategy involved because players have a choice of which space to cover.

So what does this have to do with the goals I listed at the top of the post?  Well, think about it.  Are the kiddos demonstrating a skill?  Certainly.  But, because of the strategy involved in practicing the skill, they are also thinking, reasoning, and problem solving.  Add a discussion time to the end of the class period to have students share their strategies, and you bring in the communication piece.

I hope this post causes you to stop and think about your math instruction this week.  As the title suggests, setting clear goals and keeping the end in mind is indeed a small step, but one that is capable of producing big changes!  Click here to grab your freebie, and have a great week!


Classroom Freebies Manic Monday


  1. Amy B

    Great post and great game! Looking forward to the others 🙂 Thanks,
    Amy Burton

    • Donna Boucher

      You shouldn’t have to wait long, Amy! Two are done, and I want to finish another to add to it.


  2. S. Parker

    Thanks for the freebie and informative post.

    • Donna Boucher

      You’re welcome!

  3. Kate

    Cute idea, thank you for sharing!

  4. Linda Nelson

    Thanks for sharing this on Manic Monday, Donna. Those adorable piggies breathe new life into an old reliable game!

    Primary Inspiration

  5. Tina Gibson

    Your TPT link isn’t working for me. Cute, practical product. Thanks!

    • Donna Boucher

      Thanks! Should be good now.

  6. The girl who painted trees

    My son loves this game. We are working on teen numbers with him so I just added ones in front of all your digits and made our own dice to go with the game. A spinner would be great for those teen numbers. Anyway. Thanks for the printable! He loves pigs:)

    • Donna Boucher

      What a great idea! BTW, I love the pigs, too. 🙂

  7. Shawna

    Hi Donna,
    Just wanted to let you know that I thought this blog post was great, so I shared it in my Thumbs up Thumbs down post (as a Thumbs up of course).
    The Picture Book Teacher’s Edition

    • Donna Boucher

      Thanks so much, Shawna! I love your Thumbs up Thumbs down idea. I’ll have to be sure to visit on Thursdays. 🙂


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