I just happened to stumble upon this recent article by Stuart Shanker entitled, Why Does My Child Hate Math? It was in reading this post that I had an aha moment: maybe the basics aren’t so basic after all.
In Shanker’s article, he talks about the time that his daughter asked for, “two pieces of toast.” This may not seem so monumental, and yet, for a beginning mathematician, the thinking involved in this kind of understanding is big.
- She’s demonstrating a concept of number.
- She’s subitizing.
- She’s viewing her world mathematically.
It’s basic — and amazing — experiences like this one that I get to see regularly as a Kindergarten educator.
- It’s the child that counts, “1, 2, 3 blocks,” and then finally tells me on Friday that there are “3 blocks.” It’s no longer just, “1, 2, 3.”
- It’s recognizing small amounts without always needing to count them (subitizing).
Mya started with creating this spot in the shelf just for her. She wrote her name on the popsicle stick. Then two more friends joined her, and added their names to the popsicle stick. Mya told me that the shelf “fit three” perfectly. It didn’t take long for them to bring a book in with them. You can hear them read and think about the book together. (There’s a little counting interlude as well.) SWIPE ⬅️ FOR MORE. #ctinquiry #teachersofinstagram #iteachk
- It’s the math stories that show me a beginning understanding of subtraction.
Brady decided to be the teacher in the school today. He started by telling a number story he made up, and then drew the people to go with it. Then he “read” THE THREE LITTLE PIGS. He had a very captive audience. Mya decided to do some organizing in this space, which led to math talk around sorting and number amounts. We can continue to work on subitizing of larger amounts. SWIPE ⬅️ FOR MORE. #teachersofinstagram #iteachk #ctinquiry #engagemath
- It’s the estimating and measurement that make their way into design discussions outside.
- It’s the addition and subtraction thinking that make their way into the creative play in our forest.
Math on the log today. pic.twitter.com/WGnBINDI4b
— Aviva Dunsiger (@avivaloca) November 2, 2017
Dramatic play & math on the log. pic.twitter.com/aKF1QyEA85
— Aviva Dunsiger (@avivaloca) October 12, 2017
- It’s using measurement terms in conversations, and showing their understanding of measurement in everyday experiences.
There’s criticism of the “new math,” and a need to go “back to basics.” But Shanker reminds me that “the basics” are not being forgotten, and when we see these basics in the everyday — and the thinking that leads to many student realizations — maybe these basics are actually far more complex than we thought.
What I love most about the anecdotes in Shanker’s article is that he was always being responsive to kids. He watched and listened to his daughter, and then he extended her learning as he observed what she shared. She demonstrated new skills, but he also supported the development of additional skills based on what she knew. The Kindergarten Program Document is very responsive to students, and actually puts children at the centre of learning. This is also what Shanker does.
If we always saw children first, and addressed expectations in response to a student’s demonstration of skills, would we be having different conversations around math? What about around other subjects? Basics matter, but is there complexity in basic skills, and is some of this complexity in knowing when children are ready for these “basics?” Shanker’s article reminds us that we really need to watch, listen, and connect with kids, and truly celebrate the joy that is math!
— Aviva Dunsiger (@avivaloca) October 24, 2017