Monday, April 11, 2011

Math Monday

My sister, the one who convinced me to start a blog back in the day, used to run a "weekly feature" that I thought was kinda fun. It was based on her hobby/pre-motherhood professional life, and it was a way for her to spread what she believed in: promoting health and happiness through better nutrition. Well, today as I was having preschool time with Elodie, I was winging it as I generally do, and I came up with this little game. It worked so well, I thought I would share it. And so, readers, my new weekly feature, Math Monday, is born. As a former (and future) public school math teacher, I like promoting intellectual health and happiness through better mathematical understanding. Feel free to share this link with anyone you know who teaches preschool co-ops or is looking for games to prevent their children's minds from turning to mush over the summer.

Has this conversation ever occurred with your child? "I'm thinking of a number between 1 and 10." "Ummm, 16." If so, then this game is in your kid's ZPD, Zone of Proximal Development. That's teacher talk for something your kid can't quite do yet but is ready to learn. All you need is a deck of Rook cards (or hand-made number cards with the numbers you want to work on). I call the game "In Between?" for obvious reasons. It only takes a few minutes to play, but it's amazing how a few minutes of your undivided attention can make a kid feel so special. Enjoy!

In Between?

Concept: Greater than/ Less than (great for 3-5 year olds, but fun for older siblings, too)

Players: 2 or more

Materials: Rook Cards

Object: To collect the most cards by getting a third card that goes in between the first two.

How to play: Mix the cards well. Place the full stack of cards in the middle of all the players. The first person takes 2 cards and lays them in front of herself. She puts the lower card to the left and the higher card to the right. She then draws the next card in the stack. If it is in between the first two, she gets to keep all three. If it is less than the lowest or greater than the highest, she puts all three in the discard pile next to the draw stack. If the first two cards are either next to each other or an exact match, then obviously no whole number is in between, so she has to discard those (either before drawing the third card or after, depending on how long it takes her to realize that nothing will fit in between). Then the next player takes a turn. Play continues until the whole stack has been used. The lucky player with the most cards wins!

How to maximize the math learning going on: Most importantly, let the kid take his time to think through it himself. Let’s say he drew 4 and 11. He then turns the next card in the stack over, let’s say it’s a 9, and asks himself, ”Is 9 in between 4 and 11?” When he figures it out, ask him, “How did you know?” and help him put words to the strategy he used to figure it out. For example, if he says, “I counted up and figured it out,” you could say, “Oh, very smart, you used a counting strategy and found out that 9 comes after 4, but it’s still before 11. Good thinking!” If he says, “I just knew that 9 was bigger than 4 but not as big as 11,” you can compliment him specifically saying, “Wow, good mental math. You’re developing a really good sense of what numbers are bigger and smaller. I can tell your math brain is turned on!” If he can’t express how he figured it out, ask questions and help him come up with a way to explain his thinking. If he says the number is in between, but that's not correct, you can still ask, "How did you figure that out?" and keep questioning to help him discover his own mistake. This is a very powerful skill in math--self-checking. When it’s your turn, think aloud to model how you solve problems. “OK, I need to compare these two numbers. I know that 6 is less than 8, so I’ll put the 6 to the left of the 8 (I actually make them face the right way for Elodie, rather than for myself) with a little space between them. Hey, I noticed that there’s only one number that is between 6 and 8—7! So if I don’t get a 7, I won’t get to keep these cards!” Have fun learning math together!


Maryann said...

Thanks! I've been collecting different games I can play with my hand-made number cards. Thomas is going to love this one!

merathon said...

great idea! and now you're making me feel bad for not keeping up my friday food... i've actually been thinking about starting it back up again, but don't want to unless i can commit to keeping it up!

Karen said...

Monette, you are great at everything. Just saying.

Melanie said...

Seriously, this is fantastic!

Mirien said...

I love this idea. I'm trying it tomorrow with Corinne and Hayley (who clearly is not ready yet but thinks she's big enough to play the big kid games--at least it can help her with number recognition.) And Monette, are you really going to post a weekly math activity? I look forward to it. Now you've got me thinking, if I had a weekly feature, what would it be?? A marriage enrichment post?

Beckie Smith said...

Thanks Monette, Sterling and I just played this game and I will be trying your other games as well. I always love ideas of ways to help my children develop. Please keep the ideas coming!