We recently had "Popcorn Day" in the kindergarten classroom. One of the first things we did was to guess how many kernels of popcorn were in a baggie. Before children guessed, we counted out 10 kernels. We compared the group of 10 to the rest of the bag, and I said something really subtle like, "Wow, if this is what 10 kernels look like, there must be A LOT more than 10 in this bag!"
Children proceeded to guess. "Eight," said one. "Eighteen," said another. "Two-hundred and four," said a third. Guesses continued: everything from 165 to 9,003. I wrote each one down and then we set to the task of counting.
We've been counting together all year, but this was only the second time the children had counted so many of something - the first being a couple of weeks earlier when they counted the seeds from our pumpkin. They remembered that when we have a lot to count we organize it into groups of 10 and then once we have 10 groups, we can combine them into a group of 100. When we counted our pumpkin seeds, we got to 569.
Popcorn kernels took us all the way to 1,249. This task took lots of teamwork and perseverance!
Despite the fact that the children have had a series of experiences like this since school started, I suspect that the next time we do an estimating activitiy, there will still be several guesses that lie well beyond what is "reasonable." Developing an accurate concept of number is a journey that requires both time and a wide variety of experiences. Children need countless (pardon the pun) invitations to estimate, build, count, compare and read numbers.
In kindergarten we build, count and compare numbers every day. During our Calendar Time we read/count the numbers on the calendar.
We build the number of days we've been in school with unifix cubes and keep track of them on a number grid. Children have their own chalkboards to practice writing the numbers on. We identify different counting patterns (2's, 5's and 10's) and learn what it means to "skip count."
Each time we reach a multiple of 10 days in school, we add to our "Hundreds Necklaces" which we are saving for our 100th Day of School celebration. We recently marked our 50th day of school by building a turkey with feathers that each had 50 (5 groups of 10) items on them.
We keep a wide variety of number games available. Sometimes they are the main event during our math time and sometimes they are the children's "go to" activity when they finish other projects.
We act out number stories and take turns writing them down.
This journey toward well-developed number sense isn't one that we can rush. Research shows us that the development of mathematical concepts is directly related to the physical maturity of the brain. That's why there was (and will continue to be) such variety in the children's estimations. That's ok. We'll keep providing the experiences and the children will develop understanding as they are ready.
So no, we aren't there yet. But we know we will be - and we're sure having fun along the way!
|After we finished counting all of those kernels, the children |
enjoyed watching them pop and gobbling them up!