Thursday, October 14, 2010

Our Math Routine

Recently Teacher Tom had a great post about math on his blog. And, as is my custom, I've been pondering his words since. 
Spontaneous math at the chalkboard

I love that preschoolers and kindergartners are learning all types of things at the same time. They don't just focus on literacy at one time and math another time. They learn social skills, practical skills, emotional and coping skills, and reading and math skills all at the same time, balled up in their everyday play.

I thought about Teacher Tom's observations and applied those observations to my class. We, too, spend time classifying and grouping. We create or find patterns. We even weigh and measure.

Ready for counting
Weighing and noting weights
Sorting names and words
Notice that lids and blocks are grouped together
One name, one turn
Sorting by color to set the table
Sorting animals for the zoo 
Making patterns
Writing numbers, because we choose to do it 
Measuring (and they are both the same)
We even have developed a routine that encourages kids to develop and experiment with math concepts. Each week, as we gather and begin our group time learning, the kids count how many kids we have. They count boys and girls. They count kids and adults. Our usual conversation sounds like this--
   Kids: "There are 4 boys! We have 5 girls!"
   Me: "4 boys. 5 girls. So how many children do we have?"
   Kids: "9 kids."
   Me: "And we have 2 adults. 9 kids, 2 adults. How many people are here?"
   Kids: "11!"
   Kids: "Counting you, we have 5 boys. And 6 girls when we count Mrs. Cindy."
   Me: "Okay. 5 boys, 6 girls. How many people?"
   Kids: "11!"
   Me: "Do we have more boys or more girls?"
   Kids: "Girls!"

Our routine doesn't always follow this order or even all of these observations. Sometimes we get into how many more boys we have than girls and so forth. Sometimes we group in other ways (dresses vs. pants; shoes that tie and shoes that don't tie; and so forth). But each week we go through this routine in some form.

In the past other groups have done this type of thing from time to time. But my current class does this every least so far. I didn't push this activity on them. And, we only do it for a short time (so interest remains high). And I follow the kids' lead, so it stays a game rather than a "lesson."

And this routine was developed by the kids themselves. Each week they start the game, as they gather to sit in the group. Last week I was still helping a friend finish and move to the group and I could hear voices excitedly saying: "3 boys." "No, 4 boys." "3, 4, 5 girls." "But we didn't count Mr. Scott."

I love the sound of voices excited about math. Even if they don't realize it.


  1. This is fantastic, Scott! I agree, it's incredible to hear a child excited about discovering mathematical truths. Just the other day, one of my boys just couldn't contain himself: "There are 6 of us here, and 2 over there! 3 and 3 is 6! 6 and 2 is 8! 6 is more than 2! 8 is more than 6! . . ."

    He was just riffing on numbers, totally out of turn, totally out of context. He was so excited, we all just sat there listening to him until he ran down. By the end he was beet red and sweating. Pretty cool!

  2. I LOVE that little American children and little Aussie children are exactly the same Scott! Our children like to do the very same thing when they gather on the mat at pick up time, then as each child leaves the mat they love to deduct numbers and note how many boys and girls are left until the "lucky last"!
    Donna :) :)