Yesterday, we were all involved in PA Day sessions around math. We looked closely at Van de Walle’s book, and worked in our PLCs (Professional Learning Communities) to design tasks and choose activities that would better support our students in learning math. I’ve read a lot of Van de Walle’s work before, and was familiar with many of the key ideas before digging into this book yesterday. It was the challenge though of a critical friend that got me to think differently today.
Let me explain. As part of yesterday’s PA Day, we were encouraged to choose something from the book to try out in our classrooms. There are many key ideas about math that we already use in our room, but often these activities look different from the ones designed in Elementary and Middle School Mathematics. Listening to what other people chose to do and thinking about the needs of some of our students caused me to have a moment where I questioned if we should veer from the play-based Kindergarten Program Document that we support, and believe in, so strongly.
My teaching partner, Paula, was away sick yesterday, so in the midst of our planning time, I texted her to ask for some advice. Looking at the topic of subitizing — which I thought would support some of our math learners — I wondered if we should create a set of dot plates to use during transitional times. Children could talk about the number of dots on the plate, and I thought that if children heard what others had to say, they may also develop their own subitizing skills. In her reply text, Paula reminded me that we do approach the topic of subitizing outside with the collections of sticks, the groupings of burrs, and even the groups of children who sit on the fallen log or ride the tree branch around like a horse.
But all of that being said, she didn’t say “no” to the idea, so I got caught up in “doing something from the book” and I made a list of what I needed to create dot plates. I even added a subitizing resource to our class blog. On my way out for dinner last night, I picked up the items for the dot plates, and then when I got home, I created them.
I was inspired by our @HWDSB Math PD today and am making some dot plates. @paulacrockett and I chatted about using them during a transitional time to help with developing subitizing skills. Yes, I’m the kind of person that has to do things as I think about them, so after dinner out tonight, it was dot plate creation time! 🙂 #iteachk #teachersofinstagram #ctinquiry #engagemath
I’m not going to say that the idea sat perfectly with me. It didn’t. Paula and I work hard to create authentic reading, writing, oral language, and math experiences in the classroom, and this subitizing option did not seem authentic to me. After posting the Instagram picture though, I got more “likes” and “comments” than I do on most of my posts, and I started to wonder if maybe this was the right decision.
This was until a fellow educator sent me a Direct Message on Twitter, and pushed me to think differently. She told me that she saw the subitizing plates, and while she sees the purpose of them, she loves real-life examples. She gave me a few ideas, and asked what I thought. Yes! This was my big problem. Learning to subitize is important. It helps with developing a stronger understanding of number, and even lends itself well to addition and subtraction math talk, with a real emphasis on the benchmarks of five and ten. But why does subitizing need to be done with dots, five-frames, or ten-frames? There are lots of great examples of subitizing in the real-world.
I thought about this even more when I went out for brunch this morning and had way to much fun building milk towers.
Was out for breakfast at Cora’s today and had fun building this milk tower. (Our wonderful waitress even complimented me on it.) I was proud of myself for using all of the milks in the bowl. Said to the person I was with, “Look! There’s 10. 7 in the bottom two rows and 3 in the top two, makes 10.” Explained that my head was still in math due to yesterday’s @HWDSB PA Day inservice. Then started to think that this might be an even more authentic example of subitizing. Could I make a milk tower with 7 milk containers? I decided to do 3 on the bottom instead of 4, and was so proud to make a tower with 7 until I realized there were 6. “3 and 3 makes 6,” I said. But now how to problem solve? “I’ll just make a two-level one,” I said. Was going to put 4 on the bottom, then 2, then 1, but didn’t like the look of that tower. I think that the person I was with started to think that she should find another dining companion 😂, but as I said, “It’s all because John (my principal) made me think about how I would use math this weekend.” #thatsmystoryandimstickingtoit If milk towers work for toddlers, what about for adults?! 😁 #iteachk #teachersofinstagram #ctinquiry #engagemath
Then I came home and did a little searching online for images that connect with the numbers from 1-10. I thought about the dot plate formations, and found examples that aligned with these formations. I created a slideshow with a different image on each page. We can still look at subitizing during transitional times, but now, maybe we can do so with more authentic examples.
We all need people that challenge our thinking. Grateful for somebody that did this for me today, & led to the creation of this "real world subitzing" document. I see math talk potential! https://t.co/PdBYlR0t5R cc @john_gris
— Aviva Dunsiger (@avivaloca) December 2, 2017
Sorry for my “subitizing” typo!
I even started to wonder if we could make more subitizing links through play. Yesterday, I thought about the use of muffin tins and ice cube trays in the sensory bin to lead to some discussions with anchors of five and ten. But what about in our dramatic play block space? Children regularly turn at least half of the block area into a house. What if we added a few materials into this space to help with subitizing, such as an empty egg carton, a few plates and cups for table settings, and maybe even a muffin tin? This doesn’t have to be something that we do on Monday, and I haven’t even talked to Paula about the idea yet, but I’m starting to wonder what else is possible.
The house construction in the block area continues. It’s become our key space for dramatic play. I interrupted this play a bit, and suggested labelling the space. We worked on segmenting the sounds in words. With T., we also reviewed vowel sounds. I left, and came back to a whole house that was labelled. PART 1 OF 2 SWIPE ⬅️ FOR MORE. #iteachk #teachersofinstagram #ctinquiry
I will admit that I’m tempted now to throw out the dot plates and change the link on our class blog, but I think that I’ll wait. I’m hoping that we can use the real-world subitizing examples this week, and add this link to the class blog for next weekend. The dot plates still may go, but I wonder if we can show the link to kids between these plates and the real-world examples. Does this link matter? I’m not sure.
Yesterday, we were encouraged to choose something from the book to use in our classrooms. I’ve been thinking today that we may not have done exactly that, but we did pick an idea from the text and make it more relevant to the kids and the pedagogy in the Kindergarten Program Document. There’s no question that Van de Walle knows math, but his book was written well before the update to our Program Document. I wonder if/how his ideas would have changed to align with a play-based approach. Since John Van de Walle is not around to make the change, we’re going to need to create it on our own: merging perspectives, contemplating the developmental levels of the children, and holding true to the pedagogy explicitly outlined in our document. I think it’s possible to do this, but maybe just with enough of a push from critical friends that remind us of why we do what we do and the value in this approach for children. What do you think, and what do you do? Many thanks to this educator that reminded me to hold true to my “educational troublemaker roots,” and what I know (and believe) about kids and learning. I hope I’m not alone!