Sunday, December 3, 2023

Ten Easy Holiday Math Activities

The holidays are such a lovely time of year to spend with children! However the last few weeks before the winter break can be hectic. Here are ten easy to assemble activities that can infuse playtime with math by capturing the magic of the season! Many of the seasonal loose parts included in these photos were found at the local dollar store. Enjoy!

1. Count the Presents - offer children mini presents (or other seasonal trinkets including bells or ornaments) and number cards. Encourage children to match the corresponding number of objects to the cards. Children can also place presents on a laminated ten frame and write a corresponding addition or subtraction sentence using a dry erase marker.

2.  Holiday Sensory Bin with Mini Boxes - fill a sensory bin with seasonal trinkets and treasures. Add mini present boxes and encourage children to fill the boxes with different objects. Children can then use a hundreds grid to count how many objects fit in each box!


3. Catapult the Gingerbread Man to Safety - help mini Gingerbread Men land to safety over the river by firing them using catapults made from clothespins attached to blocks using elastics. This activity works fine motor muscles too!

4. Cookie Cutter Bell Count - display a collection of bells in a tray with a variety of seasonal cookie cutters. Challenge children to fill one cutter with bells and use a hundreds grid to count how many it holds. Which cutter holds the most? Least?

5. What's Inside the Presents? - fill different holiday boxes with loose parts. Encourage children to shake one at a time and estimate how many objects might be inside. They can then open the box and spill the objects out. Each object can be placed on a number grid and counted.

6. Fill a Tree with Trinkets - children can explore the concepts of area and perimeter by filling or outlining wooden trees (or other seasonal place mats or shapes) with a variety of bead strings, ribbons or small objects.

7. String a Pattern - secure a number of green pipe cleaners to a sturdy cardstock or cardboard base in the form of a tree. Encourage children to string beads to 'decorate' the tree using different patterns. Children can also count how many beads they use for each section.

8. How Many Elastics? - children can wrap a number of elastics around cookie cutters until they are filled. Encourage children to count how many times they wrap each elastic. For an added fine motor challenge have children remove the elastics one at a time.

9. Gingerbread House STEM Challenge - provide children with magnet shapes and challenge them to build an intricate gingerbread house. Ask them to search the room for various loose parts that will attach to the magnets and 'decorate' the house (e.g., here the staples in mini bows attract to the magnets).

10. Holiday Guessing Jars - fill glass jars with seasonal loose parts. Encourage children to estimate how many objects are in each jar. The objects can then be shaken out and counted using math tools such as number grids and ten frames.

Looking for a book to support holiday math learning? Check out my book Holiday Math


Thursday, November 30, 2023

Virtual Bird Count

“There is an unreasonable joy to be had from the observation of small birds going about their bright, oblivious business.”
 Grant Hutchison

Colder weather and light snow this week have inspired new observations during outdoor play and exploration. The children have noticed birds hiding in the trees. It's been fun to watch them flit from branch to branch, observe their tracks in the snow and identify their different calls. I hoped to continue with these observations indoors. I introduced Cornell's live bird cam and invited children to spend time observing the animals that visited the different feeders. The children were enthralled with the quick, happy little birds as they flew in and out of the frame and gobbled up the seed.

The next day I asked children to predict which birds they thought might be at the feeders. We spent time drawing our guesses on a graphic organizer. I wanted to capitalize on the children's interest in the birds and integrate math and literacy into the experience. I also displayed posters from our library that had illustrations of common North American birds to be used as reference.

As the children observed the feeders they tracked what they saw on their charts. After ten minutes of watching we calculated and shared our results. Blue jays appeared the most!

This is an easy to implement activity that brings the outdoors inside! Click here for a free printable Bird Count tracking sheet children can use to record birds.

Friday, November 24, 2023

Subitizing Game Printable

Subitizing is the ability to instantly recognize the number of objects without actually counting them.


This week we practised subitizing using a number cube and this subitizing grid. Children rolled the number cube and dabbed a corresponding square on the grid. There are so many possibilities for how else children can extend this game. It's perfect for small group math work, a math center or independent practice during whole group time. Visit the link to download a copy of the grid. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Creating a More Inclusive Math Environment

I grabbed a coffee from a drive through this past weekend. While there I chatted with the employee working at the window. I asked him how his day was going.

"It was great until about five minutes ago," he said. "I just saw my former math teacher. I haven't seen him in years. Nice guy but I dreaded his class. I just never really felt like I belonged. I hated the math. Just couldn't relate. Seeing him brought up all those old feelings for me again."

As someone who loves math I was devastated to hear this story. As a kindergarten educator I try my best to cultivate a safe and supportive space where children feel like they are equal members of a democratic learning environment. I want kids to love math and see themselves as authentic mathematicians. Inclusive learning environments are ones in which children feel fully supported, and that their contributions and perspectives are equally valued and respected regardless of their identities or learning preferences. There is a sense of belonging for everyone.

Every child has the right to learn and reach his or her highest potential. This is especially important in mathematics, where growth mindset and differentiated learning and assessment approaches can make all the difference in how children interact within, and enjoy classroom explorations.

Inclusive math education ensures access to quality learning experiences for all children by meeting their diverse needs in a way that is responsive, accepting, respectful and supportive. Educators should work to diminish and remove barriers that may lead to children's disengagement and exclusion. 

There are many ways we can creative inclusive learning environments. Here are a few suggestions:

Critically Examine your Math Questions and Prompts

Consider the types of questions you ask children. Can they relate to what they are being asked? Are the questions relevant to their age, interests, strengths and needs? Is inclusive language used? I recall feeling troubled reading a question in my daughter's math work about the number of marriages that could be possible in a group of people when X number of men and women paired together. "What about gay couples?" she asked me when we reviewed her homework that evening.

Honour Student Voice in the Learning Process

Consider asking children to create the parameters for math work together in class. As an educator reflect upon the math work you ask children to complete - do they have a voice in the explorations and activities? Does math work ebb and flow around natural learning situations in the classroom or does it exist in isolation from children's lives? In our classroom we often explore new math tools together and play with how they might be used before I suggest a more formal or structured approach. I try to include children's ideas as much as possible.

Encourage Unconventional Ways of Representing Math

Consider the ways in which you ask children to explore math ideas and showcase their understanding. Do you tend to default to paper and pencil activities? Do children work only from worksheets or textbooks? Are you able to encourage children to use their hundreds of languages (e.g., painting, drawing, building) to explore math problems and share their findings with others? In the photo this child is exploring multiplication by creating an array with sticky notes. In our classroom we try to represent math thinking using innovative, non-traditional ways of knowing and being that are self-selected by children whenever possible.

Invite Family Knowledge into Math Experiences

Consider how you can welcome families into your math activities in order to enhance children experiences. Do family members have interesting jobs and hobbies that can be shared to help supplement children's understanding of math concepts or how math is used authentically in the world? How do families feel about math learning? What is it they value as part of the math learning process? Are their feelings about math limiting their children's potential? What role can families play in supporting children's emerging confidence when learning new concepts (e.g., take home math games, reading math books together)? Share information about math learning with families to help them deconstruct tasks and engage more authentically with math explorations.

Use Diverse Learning Materials

Consider the types of materials that are offered to children. Are they diverse and meet the children's interests, strengths and needs? Do they offer multiple ways of engaging with math? Are they inclusive so all children feel a connection in some way to the experience? Offering math materials throughout the classroom and not just in a 'math area' helps children see the connection that math has to the world around them and their own lives. Invite children to co-construct math materials and visuals that are used throughout the learning space.

Examine your Assumptions and Biases

Sometimes educators default to teaching about math the way they were taught. When something is new or uncomfortable it might seem natural to revert back to familiar ways of knowing and being. Many educators do not enjoy math and subconsciously communicate this to children. Consider how you talk about math with others. Do you present a growth mindset when problems occur that you are unsure of how to solve? Do you approach new and interesting mathematical situations with a stance of curiosity and willingness to learn? Math is a beautiful and engaging discipline and talking about it as such will help learners experience positive associations with math learning. 

Hold High Expectations for all Students

Children are natural mathematicians. They are curious about the world around them and want to understand how it works and make connections to others. Offering low floor, high ceiling tasks encourage all children to enter into math explorations and helps differentiate tasks for their individual needs. Activities that relate immediately to a child's world and experiences will be more meaningful for them mathematically. Communicate your belief to children that they are capable of participating fully in rich math learning and hold them to high expectations. Provide as much time, space and support as needed to ensure children experience success.

Use a Community Approach to Learning

Math is a communal experience. Too often children have been asked to complete math tasks in quiet isolation while working at desks. Rethink how you invite children into math exploration and encourage noise, mess, and social exploration. Ask children to work together to solve math problems and share their thinking with others. Resist the urge to default to thinking that math should look and sound like it might have in your childhood. Share with families and the greater community that math learning is rich and layered when we all work together.  

Create Unconventional Learning Spaces 

Math can happen anywhere, anytime. Help children see the authentic and meaningful ways math connects to our world by looking for it beyond the classroom. Be open to math moments that arise in outdoor play and exploration, and be intentional about the whole and small group math experiences you encourage in areas like the gym, library and music room. Embrace the questions children ask that are mathematical in nature, especially those related to risky play (e.g., "How fast/far/high can I run/jump/climb?").

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Ten Free Printables to Supplement the 'Autumn Math Walk' Book

 "Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower."

Albert Camus

Autumn is my favourite time of year. Once we have settled into the new school year it's amazing to head outdoors and appreciate the interesting changes happening in nature. There is so much potential for math learning outside of the classroom. 

To celebrate the 1500th copy of Autumn Math Walk being published here are ten free printables to use with children during outdoor math exploration. Autumn Math Walk is available through Amazon. Enjoy!

 1. Hundred Chart Printable

Print and laminate this page so that children can bring it outdoors and see how many objects they can collect. Challenge children to find 100 of the same objects (e.g., acorns, leaves). If children's collections are made of different objects challenge them to see how many of each there are and total these to 100 (e.g., 20 acorns + 15 rocks + 12 leaves...)

2. See, Think, Wonder

Provide a copy of this page for each child. During time outdoors ask children to focus on something that piqued their interest. This page can be used to delve more deeply into the observation using the 'see, think, wonder' thinking routine.

This page can be used to help children observe and represent something more closely. For example if children are curious about the vein patterns on the back of a leaf, they can represent what they see in a large format inside the magnifying glass.  

4. Scavenger Hunt

Before heading out on a math walk children can predict what they might see and draw these in the left column. For the walk have children attach the page to a clipboard and track how many of each object is observed using check marks or tallies.

5. Idea Web

This graphic organizer can be used to help children represent all the interesting things they observed on their autumn math walk. Papers can be distributed for individual use or a large one can be printed and used by the class when reflecting after their walk.

6. Autumn Colouring Page

Colouring can be a soothing activity. This fun page can be used by children during quieter moments of rest and reflection. It can also be sent home at the end of the day. 

 7. Autumn Counting

Ask children to look for different numbers or groups of objects on their walk. As they notice different arrangements of things they can fill them out on this page (e.g., 1 duck, 2 trees, 3 ladybugs...).

 8. Favourite Part

This template can be used once children return from their math walk. It asks children to reflect upon their favourite part of the walk by drawing a picture of what they saw, and completing a sentence to further explain their thinking.

9. Big and Little Objects

As children explore outdoors ask them to consider the size of objects they find. This template can be printed and laminated for children to use outdoors as they place objects directly in each column (e.g., small acorns, leaves, flowers, sticks). Children can also reflect upon their walk and draw pictures of small and large objects on the paper once returning from the walk.

10. Five and Ten Frames

These five and ten frames can be printed, laminated and brought out with children on their explorations outdoors. Challenge children to use the frames to count different collections of objects that they find. (The frames can be enlarged on a photocopier before laminated to accommodate very large objects). 

Saturday, September 9, 2023

Creating a Space that Cultivates Math Learning


As we head back into the school year many educators are working thoughtfully to create environments that are rich with math possibility. In Reggio Emilia the environment exists as the 'third teacher' inspiring, supporting, and extending children's learning in rich and complex ways. I have been contacted by many educators asking for advice on how to best set up their classroom and routines in order to create as many opportunities for authentic math as possible. This has inspired today's blog post - how to cultivate a math rich learning space for children at the beginning of another school year. When I reflect upon my own math pedagogy and practice, these are what I think stand out as mathematically meaningful for the educators, children and families that share our space. Although this list isn't all inclusive, I thought it might spark some ideas to support and inspire as we enjoy the first weeks of school and start back in our classroom with open eyes, minds and hearts this month.

1. Make math a part of every space in the classroom and child's school world. In the classroom are there math tools and materials available for use beyond a 'math center or math shelf'? Do children see how math relates to every subject in the space (e.g., how materials are sorted and stored on the toy shelf, how measurement is used when children decide on a size of paper to use for their project)? Can they translate math tools and ideas into other spaces in their immediate school world (e.g., see how math relates to their walks in the hallway or work in the gym)?

2. Ground and build math concepts into known objects for children. When introducing, extending or innovating a math idea is it organic and natural to the child's explorations and world? For example, it is more natural to engage children in an exploration of measurement if they measure things in their immediate world using the stick they are playing with, instead of using a standardized ruler (e.g., "Can you find something the same length as your stick in the yard?", "What is taller than your body?").

3. Use available math moments with children. In our classroom we have a large block of uninterrupted play each day. It's sometimes challenging to manage children, materials and activities during center time. However I try to engage with children as much as possible in the activities, and take on the role of 'play partner' together with them. When I am actively playing I am able to closely observe what they are saying and doing, helping me to identify and extend the rich math learning that is organically occurring (e.g., helping children to recognize why their tower keeps falling, using math terms when they equally share the play dough, introducing math terms as they discuss how many cars are in their parking lot).

4. Become a math role-model for children, families, and colleagues. Even if math isn't your favourite subject, how do you discuss it within your school and classroom? Are you excited by new activities and resources? Do you demonstrate a growth mindset? When mathematical situations arise with children that you aren't sure of, can you use these opportunities to showcase positive thinking and problem-solving? Share your new math learning with others - suggest articles and books you're reading and post these throughout your classroom to enhance documentation displays.
5. Find the math in everything. Many educators plan forward by choosing curriculum and programming expectations and then building activities to fulfill these. Try back-mapping activities from time to time; embrace child-centered, organic experiences and then deconstruct them in order to identify the rich math concepts and curriculum expectations that they utilize. You'll be surprised to find that math happens in almost every experience children have in the classroom.

6. Try looking at life through a mathematical lens. When planning invitations for learning in your classroom, see what math you can sneak in as well. Changing one or two elements of the experience might be enough to engage children in rich math. It reminds me of how I used to sneak veggies into my children's meals - a little can go a long way!
7. Collaborate mathematically with colleagues. Share new ideas and resources informally. It's easy and effective to create math invitations and activities and share these within your school or division. If every educator plans one or two activities and these are shared, children will benefit from many rich and interesting games and activities without the burden of planning and preparation it would take one educator to accomplish the same.

8. Record and celebrate your math moments. Help children, families, and colleagues recognize that math happens everywhere in the classroom by creating a documentation display with photos, anecdotal observations and connections to curriculum. This bulletin board can be built over the course of the school year as artifacts of learning are continually added by staff and students. Keep sticky notes nearby and invite observers to record their own ideas and share them by posting the notes within the documentation.

9. Engage families in joyful math with children outside of school. Consider ways that you can promote and extend math for children after school. Encouraging families to play math games and activities together with their children will not only provide children with additional meaningful math moments, but it may help older family members reconcile their fear or dislike of math. In our classroom we send home 'family math bags' once a week. These are filled with math invitations and materials so that children and their families can play games inspired by our classroom work.

10. Build your collection of math stories, songs and games. Children love to sing, dance and play games. Ask colleagues to share their favourite games and activities, and use these to help with transitions and other 'math moments' throughout the day. Quite often the words in songs can easily be improvised to match something happening in your classroom, and many rich storybooks have mathematical elements and problems embedded within them that can inspire children.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...