Friday, September 25, 2015

Math Matters! (Part 1)

Math in Kindergarten may seem eclectic,  chaotic and (like our methods) appear to just not add up...but it often does.  For instance, we begin each year with a simple task- draw 10 black dots.  Now, you may think that that task is simple and very mundane, but you can actually find out a lot about how a Kindergartner thinks and approaches a task, how well they can listen and follow directions, and about their opinions about Math in general within just a few short minutes.   The result of that activity ranges from one dot to a multitude of multicolored splatters.

Depending on their prior experience, Math may appear intimidating to a Kindergartner.  Right after even the announcement of an impending Math class you might even hear the Kindergartners' whispers or loud groans of how 'hard' Math is and how they do not like Math because it is hard or that I am on _ math level in a workbook at home."    Also, when asked to describe what Math actually is or when we might use it, the conversation becomes even trickier.  Some children say, "It's numbers" or "It's adding" but rarely do they initially say that It's cooking... or portraits... or playing cards... or it's dots.

Several goals for Kindergarten Math are:

  • counting using one to one correspondence
  • number recognition ("eleven-teen", "three-teen", "five-teen", etc.)
  • number sense (how numbers work and relate to each other)
  • sequencing (patterns, attributes)
  • shape recognition (space, negative space, dimensions)
  • measurements (height, weight, volume)
  • addition & subtraction (more or less) and multiplication and division in some instances
  • fractions (partial numbers or from a Kindergartner's point of view, "Do I  have the bigger half?")
  • Geometry (numbers and shapes relative to space)
  • Algebra (unknown or hidden numbers, formulas, translating symbols)
  • and the ability to recognize and apply Math to almost every facet of their lives

Kindergartners count as they attempt to see how many game pieces they can stack on 7th/8th Grade K-Buddy Nik's head.

Some of the ways we go about achieving our Math goal in Kindergarten is through:

  • providing individual and group lessons and hands-on activities that foster risk taking (giving the task a good try and if at first you don't succeed...)
  • by approaching a concept in different ways (using manipulatives, disciplines, pencil and paper tasks)
  • scaffolding information (building on prior knowledge, overlapping and/or revisiting concepts)
  • exploring, making predictions, investigating and drawing conclusions
  • comparing, contrasting, recording data
  • using logic (if this, than..., and weeding out non applicable info)
  • application of a task in a new context and across disciplines i.e. "The Art of Math"
  • by listening, restating, doing
  • individual and group problem solving

Below are some more examples of Math activities we have participated in so far:

After a teacher-led mini-lesson about the objective of the game,  we collectively problem solved to match  24 domino pieces into a "train." On another day, Kindergartners set out  to answer the question:  Can we successfully attach all twenty six of our domino pieces together during this child-directed group problem solving activity.  Their task involved symbol recognition and matching, conversion of symbols to numbers (Algebra) counting, sequencing, discrimination, cooperation and lots of patience.

On another day, (not pictured) the children transferred their domino reading skills to several games of "Die Up."  We used a bag full of jumbo dice as our math tool. We all simultaneously rolled a die and the Ks attempted to beat my score (the number I rolled on my die.)   If their number was higher than mine the Ks were allowed to have one from my pile of dice.  If my number was higher, I confiscated one of theirs.  The goal was to win all of my dice.  This game became very lively with the thought of possibly cleaning me out.  They succeeded!

Board Games during Choice Time assist us with counting,  addition and subtraction, color recognition, matching, sequencing, one to one correspondence and regrouping.  One example of this is when August decided to regroup game pieces into different configurations to add more suspense to our matching game that is similar to Concentration.   He strategically placed and stated that he was grouping game pieces on the game board by either  twos, threes, and even higher numbers during each round.

As a side note, Kindergartners are keen observers and have a strong sense of fairness (although mostly for themselves:)  They astonishingly discern when they are not winning a game and may often become upset and/or desire to quit or walk away.  We are practicing tenacity and perseverance while doing Math and while playing board games (and during P.E. and other subjects as well.)   We are also practicing game etiquette by telling others that, "I'm choosing to walk away now"  and sportsmanship by stating, "Good game" and sometimes we accompany this gesture with handshakes after the game is done!

Fractions were used to alter this recipe of our classroom's play dough for individual participation.  We read and used measuring cups to measure ingredients.  We calculated and converted amounts for each child's bowl. The mass was combined for later play.  Although fractions is not necessarily a "kindergarten expectation," any concept can be introduced and built upon at a later date.

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