My school has early release on Fridays, and our math “block” is after lunch. On Fridays, that means we have less than 40 minutes for math before the kiddos go home. Earlier in the year, we used this time to create interactive anchor charts.
I wondered… just wondered, to be honest, if we could show what we are learning about decomposing numbers in a… “different” format. The following is our experimental activity.
“Hey, friends!” I announce as we walk in the room. “Pick up a white board, a dry erase marker, and an eraser blankie, and then meet me at our meeting spot!”
The kiddos sit on the rug, happy to have dry erase markers. Yes, we are excited now! (Oh, kindergarten! Gotta love it!)
“Okay, turn your tummies to the white board,” I continue. “We are doing math backwards today! We are starting with the answer!” I declare.
Now, even my little turkeys who are the fastest learners look at me with a perplexed look on their faces. I love it! “This is gonna be good!” I’m thinking.
“You can read this word,” I begin, as I write “The” on the white board, and students say “the.” Whew! Good start, so far!
“This next word is ‘answer,’” I continue. “Oh! And you know this,” I say as I write “is,” while kiddos read aloud. “Hmm…” I say, pointing to the words as I read with emphasis, “The answer is… 4!” (Kids read with me, which is wonderful. It is truly our project!)
“So, your challenge is to write problems that equal 4,” I say with a smile. “Is there only 1 right answer?” I ask.
“No!” students answer, but there are plenty of uncertain looks in my kinder crowd. While I love the uncertainty, I remind kiddos that they have had lots of practice making numbers putting other numbers together.
“You don’t need to look at other people, because there’s lots of ways to do this,” I say. “Think about what you know about numbers that can go together to make 4, and have fun!” I continue with a smile.
I love when kiddos get the opportunity to really show what they know. Normally, if I looked into a sea of confused faces in the middle of a lesson, I would be concerned. I want them to experience that discomfort of having to solve a problem, and I want them to think. ( I just love this stuff!)
Now, watching the turkeys, I am really encouraging them to do their own thing. They want to copy each other, but I remind them that this is new for all of us, and really, none of us are old “experts” at this stuff.
“I’m an expert!” one of my super bright, super confident little turkeys interjects. (Sneaking a peek at his board, I am inclined to agree, but I don’t. I just smile.) It kind of worked out that my kiddos who learn so quickly are, for the most part, scattered along the perimeter of the group. This is good, so kiddos who might be inclined to copy are stuck doing work (or copying each other in the middle of the group).
I don’t really say much, except to remind kids to keep their work on their boards and not erase, (which some of the most confused kiddos are doing to stay busy). I encourage them to draw pictures, get creative, and I tell them that the only way to be really “wrong” is to not try.
This time, I am not bothered that students are confused. We are frequently confused when we do things the first time, and problem solving has an element of discomfort and uncertainty. We may as well get used to it early, and learn to persevere through it!
Several kiddos have 2 = 2 + 4 on their boards, which shows me that they are somewhat familiar with 2 joining 2, which is good, but + and = signs are a little confusing. This is good information!
I find a kiddo who has 2 + 2 + 4 on her board—her only correct equation—and I ask her to write it on the white board. She is nervous, but she obliges. I tell the group to write the number sentence if they don’t have it on their board, or put a star or a snowflake star (asterisk, which we have practiced in class) by the number sentence on their board if they already had it there. I remind them that they do not need to be erasing anything.
I move around the meeting spot, asking one kid after another to write a specific equation on the board, each one different. Kiddos are copying every equation that is new for them, with some students actually copying every equation onto their boards, which is okay.
At one point, I ask a little girl who wrote, 1 2 3 4” on her board to come up and write. As she writes her series of numbers, my “expert” announces, “Um, that’s not right!”
I quickly respond, “Why not?!”
“Well, it’s not adding!” he replies.
“Let’s look at the problem again…” I suggest, pointing at the top of the white board. “Read with me,” I state, ‘”The answer is… 4.’ Does it say you have to add?” I ask.
“No…” students reply.
“How about this,” I suggest, while writing and reading, “What comes after 3?”
“4!” students answer, agreeing that her “outside of the box” thinking was still correct. Oh, this makes me smile. (The little girl does, too! I wish I snapped a picture for you all to see, but we were busy enjoying the moment.)
Finally, we put up the last couple of equations that equal 4, as students write them on their boards.
We go over everything written on our white board, and I mention that one of their buddies in the back had a really cool problem with pictures on his board. I look in the area of my “expert” and ask if it’s okay to use pictures, and students nod and agree. I explain that I would’ve asked him to draw his pictures on our board, but he erased them too soon!
I ask the kids how they are feeling about the lesson. Some say, “It was different!” A few kiddos say that they liked giving themselves stars. Their favorite part of the lesson is, unsurprisingly, the dry erase markers and eraser blankies. I don’t mind—in fact, I predicted they would say that! If the novelty of the supplies make them more willing to stretch themselves as learners, then the supplies are successful in more way than one!
We wipe our white boards clean, and I ask 2 wiggly kids to collect the white boards. (Heavy lifting is good for some kiddos, as you can imagine.) Our helper of the day collects eraser blankies, and I collect the dry erase markers, checking to see that the lids are securely closed.