Origami Boats and Meandering Number Line with 4-year olds
August 24, 2016
Full disclosure: I did not try out teaching 4-year olds how to make origami boats. It’s not that I didn’t want to, or that I chose not to, it was just that there were other things I wanted to do more, and my time with these little ones was limited. Much to my delight, though, after we used the boats in our activity, the children asked me about how they were made. I did a demonstration, with hope that this may encourage an interest in paper-folding.
I chose to use these paper boats because they stack. Just for the record, I was curious to see if they floated. Turns out ;Yes! Until the paper absorbs too much water, these vessels are sea worthy. What was more useful for me, though, was that they can stand on their own, so that we could use them as playing pieces for a board game.
During my workshops with these children I noticed that even the most accomplished child in the group could not coordinate counting items with the movement of his hands. In other words, if there was a pile of 8 stones, these children would end up counting inaccurately because their fingers would move out of sync with the numbers that they were reciting. I was really interested to see this, partially because I’ve read that there is something about learning to play the piano that helps children be better at math: this now makes sense to me, as playing notes would help train a person to coordinate fingers with intention.
Wanting to try out a simple, and, yes, frugal, made-from-paper activity to encourage accurate counting skills, I worked out a sweet game that the kids seemed to like . What we did mimics classic board games where a die is thrown, and the player advances a certain number of spaces along a line. It was, however, important to me that I didn’t want to create winners or losers. This is how it went: the playing pieces were these paper boats, and when two boats land on the same space, they become a team, and stacked together. The point of the game is to get all the boats stacked together as a team before any boat reaches the end of the meandering number line, which, just, for no particular reason other than I ran out of space on my paper, was 42 units long.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get a photo of the kids playing this game, but, they played in groups of three and four, and they seemed to enjoy watching others play as well as playing the game themselves. Counting spaces, counting the dots on the dice, and (especially!) anticipating what throw of the die would yield the desired outcome were all challenging but doable for these kids.
Each of the five sessions that I worked with these students, one-third of my lesson plan was to focused my interpretation of relationship thinking, such as creating patterns from shaped paper, developing finger sense, estimating, discussing what was the same and different about shapes and flowers, and this unit counting game.
Other parts of my time of my time with these kids was artful numbers, which I what my next and last post about my time with these students will be about.
I had to learn how to make these origami boats for this project. I looked many different models, but this one that I’ve shown I found most enchanting. I put together a video of it, that is worth watching because there’s some pointers included that I just can’t fit onto a tutorial page.