We recently had the opportunity to present at the OAME -Ontario Association for Mathematics Education- annual conference; Champions for Change. We feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to share our experience and to connect with other educators who share our interest in early learning. Our presentation: Uncovering Mathematics Through Play highlighted our approach to teaching which supports the development of mathematical thinking that naturally emerges through play.
We have been inspired by the research of Doug Clements who shares our belief that children should be given the freedom to initiate, explore and ultimately uncover curriculum expectations with the facilitation and guidance of their teachers. As teachers we look for authentic moments to provoke learning and push for depth, trusting that the environment that we have intentionally set up for our students will support the learning that we anticipate.
It is exciting to watch interests emerge and to join in on playful opportunities with our students. With the curriculum in mind we provoke learning with the purposeful placement of materials and thoughtful questioning of our students. Several girls were collaborating at the drama centre to stack large blocks. The question “How tall is your tower” was posed to encourage the use of mathematical vocabulary and to elicit an opportunity for student driven explorations of measurement.
The girls were quick to respond that the tower that they had built was “as tall as Ms. Logaridis.” To challenge their response I stood next to their tower which reached the height of my shoulders. It was obvious to students that they had not been accurate and eagerly began standing next to their tower to count how many blocks tall they were. Inspiring the interest of other students, soon the girls were taking the measurements of each of their peers. The students were provided with sticky notes and pens to record their information, each student writing their initials and number of blocks tall that they were.
When it was time to tidy the room the girls were adamant that their tower should stay up as it held all of the information they had recorded. Understanding that the carpeted area would be needed for learning throughout the afternoon they were provided with a piece of construction paper to collect he sticky notes that were stuck to the blocks. Again, I questioned the students to provoke further learning.
Asking the girls “How can you organize your information” pushed them to look critically at the data they had collected. They began to organize the sticky notes in columns according to the number of block written. They were excited by this process, determining how many of their friends were 7 blocks tall or 8 and so on. To bring this learning back to the group, these students were invited to share their learning with the class.
Observing the excitement of the class when determining how tall each girl was pushed us to consider what materials we can put forth next to extend this opportunity for learning. In the centre of the circle we placed a large piece of black bristol board and post-it-notes and had the students discuss how we could make a similar board to the one presented that could include the information of every girl in the class. One by one they began to chart their own height, using the post-it notes to represent blocks. After highlighting the ideas of one or two students has a whole class, the board was placed at the Production centre were a keen student was given the opportunity to govern it’s completion, inviting her peers over one by one and explaining the process. Once the chart was complete we gathered as a class and discussed our observations
7 girls are 8 blocks tall!!
Seeing children as capable allows educators to shift from COVERING expectations to allowing our earliest learning to UNCOVER the curriculum.
This shift elicits powerful learning.