Wednesday, February 22, 2017

How Many Buses?

Research tells us that authentic math situations that children care about are highly engaging and robust learning opportunities. My quest in FDK has been to embed mathematically meaningful experiences into our program each day. Today I presented the children with a problem and asked for their help.
On Monday we have an upcoming field trip. (After letting the office know my plan) I told the children that the office had requested that we calculate how many buses would be needed to bring all the kindergarten children, staff and volunteers to our destination. Too few buses and we wouldn't all make it there; too many buses and we would waste money that could be used for other trips.
The children were immediately engaged. They knew that the problem was important because the office had asked us to figure this out. I asked them what we needed to know in order to proceed.
They knew we needed to first calculate how many people altogether would need to ride the bus from our classroom. I used a ten frame to help represent this number because it made it easy to visualize just how many people there were and also because I wanted to provide entry points for all children. If I used just a numeral it might be too big for some to understand. I also wanted to create a situation where the children could manipulate the 'people' and fit them onto buses later on in the activity. Unifix cubes that the children could manually manipulate might have worked just as well, if not better (food for thought for next time).


Next we totaled how many people would be coming on the trip from the other two kindergarten classes including staff and volunteers. I used ten frames again to represent this number.

The children knew this was a big number and guessed we would need two or three buses. I reminded them that if we booked too many buses it would waste money. I asked them what they needed to know in order to find out. One child suggested that we needed to know how many seats were on a bus so we could figure out how many children could fit on the bus.

The children were motivated and excited by this work. I could tell by their concentration and enthusiasm that this problem really mattered to them. I asked them where we might find out the answer to our question. A few thought it would be a good idea to ask the bus driver on their way home tonight. In order to stress the urgency of the math problem I shared that we needed to order the buses today and that would be too late. I suggested we ask the office.
We took our data to Mrs. Tessier and showed her our calculations. She agreed that it appeared we had a correct total of people that needed to take the bus. She also answered our question and shared that 48 people can fit on one bus.
The children were thrilled! They knew that one bus wouldn't be enough because "there were already 60 kids in one class and they wouldn't all fit". They shouted that we needed two buses! I reminded them that we needed to be sure so that we didn't waste money ordering an unnecessary bus.

We returned to the classroom. I asked the children to pretend that one yellow piece of paper represented a bus and asked them what to do. The children suggested counting the dots on the ten frame to try and fit them onto the 'bus'. I suggested that to make it easy, we could cut the ten frames apart. We quickly filled one bus with 40 'people'.

The children then suggested adding a second bus to hold another 40 people.

We knew it would be close...the children then suggested cutting apart the remaining ten frames into single units and dividing these equally into the two buses.

We finally had a solution! Each bus would hold 47 people, and that meant that we needed two buses to bring everyone on our field trip!

We reported back to Mrs. Tessier to share our thinking and show her our work. She was so excited that the children had calculated this on their own and promised to order precisely two buses!

I was amazed at the end of this activity. The children were so confident problem solving with such a large number! I know that it was because they were highly motivated and invested in the math problem because it related directly to their lives and was something that was exciting and important. I look forward to finding more authentic math problems to bring to our whole group conversations.

If you have examples of real life math that has intrigued your children please tweet us and share @McLennan1977 or comment below!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Gummy Bear Math

On Friday I was fortunate enough to engage in some very interesting math PD and was introduced to the idea of three act math videos! These interactive videos engage children in a rich, real life situation that is highly interesting.  I wanted to replicate this idea with my kindergarten students but had difficulty accessing a developmentally appropriate math problem.
I decided to create my own. I told the children that on the weekend Sobey's had a sale on gummy bears and I bought a big pack, but the problem was I didn't know how we were going to share all the gummies in the class. I asked them what we should do.
One child immediately suggested that in order to accurately count the gummies, we should use a tool like a hundreds grid. He knew the gummies were way too many to count quickly and figured that it would be a big number.  We covered our hundreds grid with plastic wrap (so it was a clean surface) and began to count them out.


Once we reached 100 gummies on the grid, the children suggested that we remove them into a pile (because we already knew there were 100). We then started the process again.

Altogether there were 179 gummies! The children knew this was a big number and predicted that they each would get a big handful! I told them I wasn't sure how we were going to fairly share 179 gummies and asked them what to do. A number of children immediately suggested that we use ten frames to make sure that each child gets a fair number of gummies. I asked them to clarify "fair" and they explained that fair meant "equal".
We sat in a circle and each child had a ten frame. I passed the gummies out one by one and the children carefully placed them on their ten frame.

Another problem quickly arose...the ten frames became full and we had more gummies to pass out. "We need another ten frame each!" one child shared.

Finally the gummies were passed out. Each child received 16 gummies with a remainder of 3. The children knew it would be difficult to split the remaining 3 gummies so we kept those aside.

Wow! I was incredibly impressed! Not only were the children able to quickly suggest a tool for helping us to calculate the large number of gummies altogether, they knew how to use math tools to help them fairly divide the gummies so that each child had the same amount. This complex, multi-step problem was a breeze for this math experts!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Emergent Learning in the Early Years: Digital and Deliberate

On Thursday, February 9 I had the pleasure of being invited along with Jocelyne Brent to present "Emergent Learning in the Early Years: Digital and Deliberate" for TVO. In this webinar I shared the many ways we purposefully use technology to support, extend, document, and share the inquiries happening in our classroom. For those of you interested, you can view the webinar here:

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Gingerbread Man Coding Retell

This week we've been reading a favourite winter time story! The children love the adventures the Gingerbread Man has as he runs away from the different characters in the story. They are always so sad at the end when he is eaten by the fox!
Today I challenged them to retell the story and help the Gingerbread Man outsmart the bakers, cow, goat, cat and fox by using a coding game. This activity helped the children to strengthen their retell as they recalled the story and sequenced the events of the story, and encouraged them to practise their coding skills, specifically oral language related to directionality and number.
We used a small stuffed Gingerbread Man, photos of the different characters from the text, our coding board (sensory table lid with tape), and directional coding cards. 

First the children placed the different characters on the coding board in order that they are introduced in the text.

After determining the starting and ending location for the Gingerbread Man, the children gave each other oral directions to help move the character around the obstacles in order to avoid them. It was a great way to practice counting, directions, and giving and receiving directions while recalling the events of the story!


In order to make the next attempt more difficult, we added additional obstacles from the story including a barn, pond, haystacks, and a forest. The Gingerbread Man would need to maneuver around these obstacles as well as avoiding the many characters that wanted to eat him!

The children loved this challenge and worked together to successfully guide the Gingerbread Man! They had some interesting ways of moving him around the grid and were eager to create very challenging obstacles for their friends to work around!

Tomorrow we are going to design and build our own Gingerbread Man traps to help us catch that sneaky guy!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Subitizing Message in a Backpack


Here is a link to my newest publication from Teaching Young Children (NAEYC)! It's a printable 'Message in a Backpack' that explores subitizing in depth. Feel free to print it out and play some of the subitizing games at home with your children!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Storytelling Coding

The children continue to express an interest in coding so in order to capitalize on this, I asked them to think about some fun obstacles that they might like to encounter if they could have an adventurous walk to school.

They thought it would be fun to walk through a forest, jump over a lake, move through a city, and go around hot lava! I printed realistic over head pictures after doing a google search and we placed them under our clear plexiglass coding board so they could be easily seen.

The children decided where home was and indicated this with a little wooden house. We used an overhead picture of a school and decided this was the end point. The children decided where the obstacles would be and these were placed underneath the clear coding grid.

One child was the player and another was the programmer. The player was moved around the board based on coding directions from the programmer. The programmer was able to help the player move with the commands 'go up', 'go down', 'go left', 'go right' and 'jump'. We decided quickly that other commands like 'swim' might be fun to try as well!

It was fun to observe the children program the child around the obstacles.

They weren't interested in a clear path to school and instead led each other on whimsical journeys around the board, jumping over water and coming close to the hot lava, even when it wasn't anywhere near the school!

An extension we'd like to try next is to use a favourite read aloud and encourage the children to create the setting and characters for the text. Once they do they can use the coding board to retell the story by mapping out the character's journey through pictures depicting the setting!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Outdoor Coding

It's been so beautiful around here! We have been fortunate to have a warm end of Autumn and this has meant lots of learning potential outdoors. The children's interest in coding continues so we used the opportunity to turn our cement pad into a large grid using tape. Chalk lines would work just as well!

The children love stuffed animals so for this activity we used one that is really popular with them! We agreed on the starting grid...

...and using a dry erase board the children took turns coding one another. One child was the programmer and used the board as well as giving oral directions to help the player move from 'start' to 'finish' along the grid.

Because we had agreed upon the commands and symbols that represented each and were using them consistently in our coding activities, the children were very familiar and comfortable using them in new coding situations (e.g., "go up", "go down", "jump", "go left", "go right").

Many children wanted to experience both roles - that of programmer and player. Because the children were giving each other directions this activity really strengthened their oral language skills. They had to effectively give commands that would lead the player in the desired path and the player needed to carefully listen to the directions in order to be successful. This activity promoted team work and collaboration.

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