Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Power of a Puddle

Our children are drawn to water. This past week we had a lot of rain and it created a giant puddle in the playground. The children were curious about how to cross the puddle. It was too big and deep to skip or jump over and they needed to cross it in order to get to the other side where their stumps and other favoured areas were.

One child decided to try using some of our loose building parts. He gathered many pieces of wood and laid them starting from one edge of the puddle. As he placed them side by side he observed the edges of the wood to see if the puddle was deep enough for the wood to sink into.

"I don't know if the wood is high enough. If the puddle is deeper than the wood, then this won't work."

I observed him as he placed the wood and then stepped on each piece, watching to see if the water rose higher then the wood. I noted the complex math and problem solving that had emerged in his work. He was considering the depth of the water and whether it was deeper than the wood was tall.  After a few minutes some friends joined him.


As each piece was added the children continued to test their design to see if their feet stayed dry.

"We're making a bridge so we can cross!" 

The children continued to lay the wood side by side. When it ran out, they were perplexed.

"We don't have enough to finish the bridge!"

They stood around for many minutes, stepping on their bridge, counting the pieces that were side by side, and then looking around the yard for any loose pieces of wood they might have missed.

"I know! Let's take half of the pieces and move them so that we can make the bridge longer! We'll just have to walk one at a time instead!"

The children realized that if they narrowed their bridge they could double the length by moving the pieces in different positions. The amount of wood they used hadn't changed but their problem solving allowed them to complete a workable way of crossing the water.

 Success! The children children spent the majority of their outdoor time racing one by one across the big puddle. They even tried driving the tricycles across it - the process of experimentation in doing so led to some amazing conversations about the weight of the bike and if the wood would hold it, the position of the wood pieces and if they would stay in place while being driven on, and how fast the bike could be driven across without the pieces shifting and becoming ineffective.

The outdoors is full of possibilities for children to mathematize their play; this authentic experience of crossing the puddle motivated the children to engage in robust math that incorporated measurement and problem solving!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Math Learning - and a Touch of Science - in the Outdoor World

With spring in full bloom many kindergarten children are spending time exploring the outdoors! There is so much opportunity for rich math learning hidden among the natural treasures in any play space! If you'd like to learn about the potential for math in the outdoor world, check out my newest article:

Math Learning - and a Touch of Science - in the Outdoor World

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