Sunday, October 19, 2014

Rethinking math in the Kindergarten

The intention

After spending years hosting a math circle and workshop in the Kindergarten each afternoon, we decided to make a concerted effort to embed literacy and math into our morning and afternoon experiences this year.

The Reasoning

Young children have a curiosity that is contagious. They are intrigued by problems in their environment and enjoy solving these problems with their peers. As the co-construct meaning together, they propel the inquiry process forward. We always seek best practice that engages and motivates the Kindergarten children.

The environment and routines are  equally important to the effort of embedding literacy and math and provoking inquiry. Story Workshop emphasizes the studio languages of expression and story development. We are looking for similar experiences that consistently stretch strategic, logical and mathematical thinking.

How does this intention translate to practice?
                       Gabriel  loves nature and notices the daily evidence of the Fall season. He has been collecting acorns. He filled a jar with acorns and presented his classmates with the challenge of estimating the number of acorns in the jar.  We later read the recorded estimates, counted the acorns and decided which estimate was the closest. C. is estimating our second challenge. This time Gabriel has filled a larger glass container.                                                    
Reed estimated 54 acorns in the jar.

Counting has many perils. Remembering the sequence of numbers is one such obstacle. We also try to assign only one number to each object counted and avoid skipping objects. Our class has developed several strategies to support counting. O. and G. were counting the floors in a skyscraper they built. They disagreed regarding the number of stories. 

They both counted separately several times. O. noticed that G. skipped a floor and G. noticed that O. counted out of sequence. Finally they decided to count together and agreed that there were 16 stories in their skyscraper.

The sensory experiences of a rice table inspired thinking regarding measurement. Tucker noticed that there were markings on one of the cups. When he put a "teeny" bit more in the cup and the rice rose to the number one but when he put more rice in the cup it moved to ten. Cole said that he filled all of the containers up to the top. The biggest container was the heaviest. Carter suggested that we get a scale and weigh the containers to see which container was the heaviest.

The next day....

Tucker: I kept scooping until they were the same size. This side is holding the other side down even though it has more rice.

We compared the size of the containers. Cole felt that the containers that were wider would hold more rice but Oliver disagreed. "If we filled both containers one would be way heavier because it is made of glass."

A week later we are still recording discoveries.
S. works meticulously to measure equal amounts of rice into the same containers achieving balance between the scale.

N: This is weighing the scale down because it is the tallest container.
S: It is because it is tall and made of glass.

S., N. and O. decide to use containers made from the same material to try to achieve a balanced scale. They realize through trial and error that they must continue to add rice and then weigh the containers.


The Scaffolding
We to meet in small groups during the morning and afternoon, as we have done in previous years, to consider the skills that support mathematical thinking and literacy. Mary and I notice the  challenges that exist for each child as they solve problems mathematically . Small groups provide an opportunity to tailor an experience to fit the needs of a particular student or group of students.

Working this way does require an understanding of the development of mathematical thinking of five and six year olds. This process also demands a vigilant level of listening and documenting. The questions that we choose to ask are also crucial.

One questions leads to another....
On Friday, a large noisy crowd gathered at the estimation jar. The children noticed that one of the acorns was sprouting.

Evan: Gabriel, look what is coming out of the acorn. It has a tail and is growing.

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