The Great Big Number Line
August 4, 2016
I haven’t posted in a while. I haven’t been able to figure out how to organize my thoughts around this work I’ve been doing with 4-year olds. This is an age group that is mostly mysterious to me, and although I had a plan going in, my intent was to be responsive to what I was able to learn about and from them each week. The fact is that there is too much for me to write about. So, rather than fret about it any more, I’m going to try to just get to it and see what happens. I am thinking that I will do this in small bits, maybe, hopefully, posting frequently, until I write about most of the things that we did during our weekly meetings over the past five weeks.
One of the bits of info that I was given at the beginning of these journey was that the teachers at the local school wanted the students to be able to recognize numbers. Within the small group of students that I worked with, most seemed to already be familiar with the numbers.
The part that surprised me was that it became clear to me that counting and recognizing numbers are two completely different skill sets. For instance, there was one child who could count to four, could count four things, do four actions, but could not seem to fathom a connection between the concept of four and the symbol for four.
Among the projects that we did together was this great big number line. My idea had been that I would mount the numbers on to an accordion-supported structures that could stand on itheir own so that students could pick the numbers up and carry them around.
Coloring in these big numbers was part of what we did each week. Although these photos are what I am showing first, I want to say that we would always do a number-sense activity before we settled into the more relaxing activity of coloring in numbers.
The second week that we colored in numbers I brought in protractors, circles, and other shape templates to see if the kids would like using them. They loved tracing around the shapes that I brought in.
We used a combination of crayons and markers. Markers are tricky with this age group, as the markers are fairly readily destroyed when the kids press them really hard, but I have too many markers anyhow….
When a number was done, I would cut it out, smear some white glue on the back of it and mount it on the accordion-supported structure.
Then, each week, the numbers that were mounted were placed in a place where the students could grab them, and I would ask them to put the numbers in order.
Since there is a front and back to these numbers, there was a surface to add shapes that could relate to the numbers. This is what I mean:
I brought in my strips from rhombus project that Malke Rosenfeld and I had developed together (see http://mathinyourfeet.blogspot.com/2015/04/some-thoughts-on-hands-on-math-learning.html and https://bookzoompa.wordpress.com/2015/03/31/piecing-together-a-project-over-land-and-sea/) The idea was that on the back of the 1 there would be one shape, on the back of the 2 we”d make two shapes, and on and on. I’m not really sure if the students made the connection, or cared about it, but they did do lovely work.
I think the students were quite taken by the stars that they made for the backs of their big numbers. In the background of this photo is one of the kindergarten teachers from the local school. Like me, her first name is Paula. She was awesome to work with, and we traded ideas back and forth. She came up with the brilliant idea of suggesting that the students wear the numbers, which is exactly what we did, although the first time I slipped one of the numbers over the head of one of the girls, she burst into tears. I don’t know if it scared her, or if she didn’t like the particular number, or what it was, but it shook me up! However, after that first outburst, it became just another fun thing.
Turns out that wearing numbers makes it super easy to move them around.
This was one of two number lines that we made: this number line starts with 1, but a second number line project started at zero By our last class these kids were asking why we didn’t start this number line at zero. I liked being able to introduce them to the fact that there was no one right place to start the number line. Yee-ha!
Just as I am posting this I’ve come across this article about math and young children. http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/early_years/2016/08/ask_a_scientist_whats_the_best_type_of_math_to_teach_in_kindergarten.html?cmp=eml-enl-eu-news1 I guess I’ll write my next post about some of the number-sense work that we did, which was all very hands on with materials….it was fascinating to watch these kids really figure things out!