One Sunflower

taking a risk

on February 16, 2010

I’ve been setting the scene for “math magic” for 2 weeks.  I gathered all sorts of items from cupboards and put together 10 boxes of materials for math activities.  One box has jumbo buttons and gold liners from a candy box for sorting.  (Thanks mom!) Two boxes have different animal counters in a variety of colors and paper plates with numbers and color names.  Another box has a collection of regular buttons and mats labeled small, medium and large.  I put black paper in tin cake pans and added parquetry blocks to create a form for making designs.  There are some classroom materials that I don’t have enough of to support a full center – but there are enough for two students – so I put them in a box. These include a plastic gear set, tinker toys and a dice game.

My goal was to introduce the boxes individually over a couple of weeks so that everyone was familiar with the contents and then add “math magic” to our daily routine.  We spent some time practicing identifying “same” and “different” and I practiced the use of dice.  But the process was becoming cumbersome because the abilities and interests of the students are so varied.   Since I knew that the boxes would have high interest regardless of whether the students had any idea of what to do with their contents, I decided that the most important issue was plugging the time into our routine and teaching a protocol for the work.

I had already established the name for this work – “math magic,” – and its place in our routine – just after the final clean up for the day and before our literacy activities. Today I outlined the protocol.  I described my expectations for the activity and placed vinyl circles on the floor; I called on students to choose a partner and go to a mat.  Maestra and I passed out the boxes, gave brief instructions about possible use of the materials and then let the students go.  We visited each pair to ask questions, demonstrated some possible activities and pointed out discoveries.  I rang the bell after 5 minutes for the boxes to be put away. 

I want this time to be short and focused.  I think that by structuring it this way, the kids will remain interested and curious about the contents in the various boxes.  I know that some students will keep the same partners and some won’t. I’ve recorded who had which box and will make sure I rotate them around to the various couplings.  At some point, I may have to demonstrate new ways of using the materials and will probably add things like dice, score cards or stickies, even combine some materials together to keep the spice going.

It was a good take to take a risk and jumpstart this activity – I could have scrapped it if we were having a bad day – but we weren’t!  I’ll put math magic on the schedule again – maybe Thursday.  It won’t be an everyday activity but I hope it will become a solid part of our routine.

(I took the pictures in a hurry, so they’re a bit blurry.)


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