Students need to use concrete models, visual representations and numbers in conjunction to learn more deeply. But the REALLY deep learning comes when they can see patterns and connections.
In this case I had first grade student build the number 8 as many ways as he could. At the end I asked if he could see anything that was the same in all of the ways he made. Sure enough, he said “I see eight!”
That’s when the lightbulb clicked on…and he shouted “Hey! They are all five and three!”
Helping students decompose numbers at an early age allows them to become very flexible thinkers. Everyone wins!