Robot Rules Function Tables

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.

I love function tables for practicing facts!  Not only do students develop fact fluency through practice, but with function tables they also develop a deeper understanding of the relationship between the operations.  I’ve just finished up my first Robot Rules product–a Valentine-themed set for addition and subtraction–and I wanted to give you a closer look.

66 cards for all addition and subtraction facts from 0 to 10 with three levels of difficulty.
Multiple options for recording work increases accountability, provides for extended use (kiddos don’t get tired of doing the same old thing), allows differentiation, and focuses on different aspects of  understanding. 

One option for the cards is to laminate them and place them in a workstation with wipe-off markers.  I would definitely suggest, however, using one of the recording sheet options to provide accountability and serve as a formative assessment.  

The 1-star cards are the easiest.  The input numbers and the rule are given and students only need to apply the rule to the input numbers to find the output.  Notice, however, that the input numbers are not in order. This causes students to have to think about their solutions, even at the simplest level.

We start to see algebraic thinking at the 2-star level.  Students are still given the rule, but now they are asked to find either the input or output.  This is very difficult for some kiddos.  For example, they might be tempted to fill in 19 for the In on the second row, because 14 + 5 = 19.  Be sure to model this type of card extensively before having students work with them independently.  It’s helpful for kiddos to learn to read a missing input as “what plus 5 equals 14?”.  Or, of course, they can subtract 5 from 14. As a check, I always suggest students read back each entry in the table after filling them in.  So, for example, if they had mistakenly written 19 as their solution in the second row above, they would read it back as “19 + 5 = 14” and they should catch their mistake.  All part of attending to precision!
At the 3-star level, students are given one pair of numbers, must determine the rule using that pair, and fill in the table.
An addition/subtraction chart is provided for student support.
Answer keys allow students to self-check their work. 
Let’s take a look at recording options. Most of the record sheets are half page, so they can be easily glued into a student’s math journal.
This recording sheet can actually be used in a couple of ways.  If, for example, a student is working on a +6 card, this recording sheet could be used to list all the +6 facts.  It could also be used, however, for students to write their own rules and generate a table.  These rules could even go beyond simple addition and subtraction facts.  For example, a student could have a +15 rule.
This recording sheet simply allows students to record their work for 4 different cards.  They might do more than 4 cards while working in the workstation, but recording the work for 4 cards will allow you to make sure they understand the work being done.  Remember, accountability doesn’t necessarily mean writing down something for everything that’s done.
This recording sheet makes the connection between the input/output table and actual number sentences.  So, for example, if it’s a +5 table and the input and output are 5 and 10, the student would write 5 + 5 = 10 for the number sentence.  You can use this option to stress missing addend problems.  If the rule is +5 and the output is 10, the student would write £ + 5 = 10 and then fill a 5 in the box.
Function tables naturally lend themselves to a discussion of fact families, due to their structure.  This recording sheet capitalizes on that relationship.  Students record their work from two different cards and then choose one pair from each card and write the corresponding fact families.  If, for example, the card is +5, they might choose the pair 3 + 5 = 8 and write the fact family to go with it (3 + 5 = 8, 5 + 3 = 8, 8 – 5 = 3, 8 – 3 = 5).  I find that if students actually touch the numbers on the card while reciting the addition and subtraction facts, it helps solidify that understanding.  It’s very much like a triangular flash card.  So they would touch the input (3), the rule (+5), and the output (8) while saying 3 + 5 = 8.  Then they would touch the output (8), the rule (+5), and the input (3) while saying 8 – 5 = 3.  Touch the rule (+5), the input (3) and the output (8) while saying 5 + 3 = 8.  And finally touch the output (8), the input (3) and the rule (+5) while saying 8 – 3 = 5.
If you want kiddos to complete all of the cards, this recording sheet can be used to help them keep track.  You can also use it to differentiate your workstations.  You can circle the cards you want kiddos to do (maybe all the 2-star cards) and then they cross them off.
I hope you like this new product and can see how beneficial it would be for your kiddos!  There’s also a non-Valentine version



  1. Leigh

    PERFECT!!!! Thanks again! Can’t wait to see the M/D ones!

    • Donna Boucher

      Working on them… 🙂

    • Donna Boucher

      Ha ha! Love the enthusiasm, Shannon! I’ll try to hurry!


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