Like literacy, mathematics is all around us. At our school, we are exploring ways to build children’s conceptual understandings of mathematics in a variety of ways. This year, we have committed to purchasing materials to support both the teaching and learning of mathematics in our classrooms. Here, a kindergarten classroom is using a Rekenrek. It looks very much like an abacus. At it’s most basic level, students can use it to count. At a deep level of thinking however, the tool also promotes the skill of subitzing or, our ability to recognize the number of objects at a glance without actually having to count them. In the case of the rekenrek, children quickly come to understand that the entire group of white beads on one row represents 5. As they work down rows, they discover that they can then count by 5s, 10s, 20s. Working horizontally, students can also recognise that by adding red beads to the mix, they can “see” how it becomes 5 plus the added beads. It is a tool that helps young children learn to count efficiently. You can support this skill at home too by sorting and counting objects around the home like beads or buttons.
In school we often talk about “Activating prior knowledge” or determining what we already know about a subject matter. This ability is quite important in math as concepts build from year to year. Here, a grade one class explores that they already know about addition. The students provided examples of how they think about math in their heads, what they see when they add and examples of actual equations. Talking with your child at home, about math in real life contexts, is valuable talk. Activities such as shopping, cooking, building, sorting, measuring and games all help promote mathematical thinking in genuine ways.
In this example, another grade one class explores how they can make their thinking visible within a mathematics context. We encourage children to use pictures, words and ultimately mathematical equations to solve problems.
Our classes use “anchor charts” as reference points for students to refer to after lessons have been taught. These are commonly hung up in classrooms or archived over time for students to refer to as needed. At home, you can encourage your child to also express their thinking in mathematics. Cooking can be a wonderful way for children to work with you on measurement, sequencing of events and time.
Students ultimately must demonstrate their understanding in mathematics independently. There are however, many opportunities for students to explore mathematical concepts in groups, collectively. Here, a grade 2/3 class rotates through different math centers in their classroom to collaboratively work through math challenges together. Teachers will often bring the whole class back together near the end of the lesson to share thinking, solutions and questions students have to further build mathematical thinking. At home, never underestimate the power of family games to promote mathematical thinking, cooperation and fun!
Finally, a goal for us is to encourage students to be mathematicians. To do this, they must think, speak and act like mathematicians. Vocabulary is important in helping students achieve these goals. This grade 3 class spent time defining important math terms within the context of the unit they were studying. These anchor charts, again allow students to refer to concepts taught as they work through different tasks. At home, you too can label or identify words around home that relate to mathematics.
Math, it’s everywhere.
Let us know how you use math at home with your family.