Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Math Games

Kindergarten math is predicated on the belief that children require lots of hands-on practice to understand the concepts underpinning mathematical reasoning.  For this reason, many early elementary classrooms are equipped with a wide assortment of manipulatives and games. Manipulatives provide tactile, concrete items for the hands-on ingredient while games serve the practice component (as well as motivation).

Every day we strive to ensure that our students have an opportunity to engage in math games.  New games are generally introduced during whole class lessons and then placed in a math center for independent/partner/or small group practice.  Depending on the games chosen we will usually set-up about 3-5 different activities. At times children are assigned to a specific center (to build a particular skill) or they can decide for themselves where they would like to go.

This week we have been playing some old favorites and some new.  One of the new games is Egg Carton Math.  This game has three levels of difficulty, each one building on the prior.  At the beginning level students use an egg carton that has dots in each depression that resemble those found on dice.  Two tokens are placed in the carton, the lid is closed and given a good shake.  When it is reopened the student must count (add) the number of dots under each token.  We also have our students write number sentences for each (see picture).

The second level (shown in the top photo) moves away from the all-dot scenario and mixes in numerals.  This encourages children to count on - meaning, for instance, if one token fell on the numeral 10 and the other on 6 dots the child would say "10" and count on using the dots as support. However, it is possible that both tokens would land in only dots (providing reinforcement of prior learning) or only numerals ( a more challenging task).

The third level in Egg Carton Math is to place only numerals in the egg carton.

Our AUSSIE math coach, Chris, introduced us to another popular favorite called "Racing to 100".  In this game children use a spinner (click on picture to see details) to become the first to fill up their cards. Each card has a space for 100 cubes.  When one row of 10 cubes is full the 10 cubes are exchanged for a stick of 10 (called a "long") and once the card has 10 longs that is exchanged for a "flat".

The description may seem confusing but the game is pretty straightforward.  It promotes counting by 10, 1 to 1 matching of number and object and concepts of number among other things.

As our students play we are free to provide guided math instruction with small groups (such as writing numbers) and observe/document student understanding.  It is a win-win situation for all involved.

Next stop...Vegas!


Barbara said...

This is right up my alley! As a math major who liked math until it became theoretical, there is nothing more fun than manipulatives. I have always believed that children must be able to feel numbers before they can understand them. It's really good that you are starting them early before the math-phobias begin.

Gary said...

Barbara - At this age children are so free to see math and mathematical concepts from a fresh perspective. Their thinking is often so unique which becomes evident as they explain their thinking. They arrive at the right conclusions in ways that make my mouth drop with bewilderment and awe.


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