Sunday, January 27, 2013

Math Centers: Friday math fun

Every Friday we have math centers, which is 45 minutes of solid math adventure! The kids are split into small groups of 4-5, and they rotate between four centers. One of the centers is always working with me, which gives me a chance to work more closely with each individual. Then Ms. Breuer rotates between the other groups to make sure they are engaged and learning lots. I love math centers because it gives me a chance to monitor each child's progress and teach tough concepts that are hard to learn as a whole class. The kids love math centers because they get to work with their friends doing hands-on math! Here is a glimpse at our math centers from this past Friday.

1. Penguin Dial-a-Sum

To play Penguin Dial-a-Sum, partners spin a spinner on a penguin's belly to come up with two numbers. Then they write down the numbers and add them up to make a number sentence! They have counting chips to help them add up the numbers. Some of our kiddos are even getting to the point where they can add two single-digit numbers automatically! And here are a few math whizzes using strategies like counting on their fingers - we love to see those strategies!

 2. Craft Stick Patterns
At this center, kids work independently or with a partner to make a craft stick pattern (making letters and shapes out of craft sticks - for example X-O-I-X-O-I or square-triangle-square-triangle). They can stretch their pattern all the way across the carpet! Then they draw their pattern on paper. At this point in kindergarten we'd like to see them coming up with three-part patterns (alternating between three different units, like "X-O-I-X-O-I"), so that is something you can encourage at home! Here are some hard-working pattern makers:

3. Number Stacks
One of the main goals of math in kindergarten is to gain a solid, deep number sense. This means a lot of different things, but one aspect of number sense is for kids to be able to visualize automatically that "7" is bigger than "3," and that "20" is a lot bigger than "2." To help them get there, we can do building activities like this one. The goal of this center was for partners to lay out number cards in order from 1 to 20. Then, next to each number, build a cube tower whose height matches that number. For example, stack 1 cube next to the "1 card, stack 5 cubes next to the "5" card, etc. This gives them a nice visual to see how much bigger 20 really is than 2! Here are some stackers enjoying building their number sense:

4. Tricky Number Sentences with Ms. Woods
A very tricky part of math is understanding the equals sign. So often, by the time kids get to the older grades, they are stuck thinking that the equals sign just means "add or subtract whatever is on one side." Thus, number sentences like 2 + 3 = ___ are very easy for kids. But when faced with a problem like 2 + ___ = 5, kids are stumped! They know their addition facts, but they can't think outside of the box. So, I am determined to help our kindergarteners really understand the equals sign on a deeper level.

To do so, we're going to start referring to the equals sign as "the same as." The trick to solving number sentences of all kinds is to make sure both sides of the equals signs are balanced, or the same. So, a problem like 2 + __ = 5 becomes easier when you just ask "What do I have to add to 2 to make it the same as 5?" If this doesn't make sense, don't worry! It's a tough concept for all of us adults because we were never taught to think this way when we learned math! For this math center, I worked with the kinders in small groups to practice a few of these problems. It really got their brains working, but many of them caught on quickly!! Here are two kids hard at work filling in the problem 1 + __ = 2 on their dry erase boards.

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