One of my goals as a kindergarten teacher is to give our kids a really good, solid understanding of number sense and -- just as importantly -- to have fun with math. The U.S. lags behind in math scores compared to the rest of the world, and there is a large gap between how boys and girls perform on math skills when they are older. While the reasons for those gaps are complicated and controversial, I do think that teachers can fight against these trends by helping kids learn to love math, not be intimidated by it. Here are some examples of what we've been doing in math lately - both to help develop number sense, and to have fun doing math!
How Big is a King's Foot? Using Standard and Non-Standard Measurement
We started off by reading the book How Big is a King's Foot? which is the story of a long ago king who ordered a bed to be made for his queen. Unfortunately, he told the carpenter to make it three feet wide and six feet long - but the king's foot happened to be much larger than the carpenter's foot, and the bed turned out way too small! So to avoid this problem, to this day, we use a standard "king's foot" to measure everything (aka 12 inches).
To help understand how big a "king's foot" is, each kindergartener got a ruler and searched the classroom for things that were approximately one foot. This was their first time using a ruler so we didn't worry about precise measurement - estimation is also an important math skill. Then we recorded the items that we found.
How Big are We?
The next day, we took the same ruler and measured our friends! This was definitely more challenging, since it required holding the ruler up to their leg, then putting our finger at the end of the ruler and moving the ruler up without moving our anchor finger. The kids were fascinated to know they were three or four feet tall. And every now and then someone yelled "He's seven feet tall!!" Needless to say measuring is a skill we will revisit many times...!
Teen Number Dance with Pennies
Our favorite math activity this week came after we began learning about the penny. I learned about a game that combines teen numbers, pennies, and dancing, so of course had to try it. After lining up chairs in a circle, I put on a kid-friendly dance song, and everyone danced in their most adorable way. Then when the music stopped, they had to find a chair, each of which were equipped with a piggy bank with a teen number on it. For example, the piggy bank might say "17¢" or "12¢." When they found a chair, they needed to count out that many pennies and put them in the piggy bank!
|Here we are dancing...Popular dance moves include the disco and the Egyptian.
|When the music stops, start counting!
|It was amazing, because you could have heard a pin drop while they were counting, they were so into it!
|And then, back to dancing!