#FDOFG2017–Math in First Grade: Take 2

We started in first grade math with an investigation into how mathematicians use tools and what kind of thinking they do.  Next, we worked through a guided discovery of two more tools: unifix cubes and multilink cubes.  On the surface these look very similar (basically they are just plastic squares in all different colors), but if you dig a little deeper you can find many different ways to use them.  And that was the job first graders were given, by asking the questions “What can you do with these math tools?  What can they help you better understand?”

Kiddos were given some time to explore with each kind of cube, in two small groups. Most kiddos made long sticks or tall towers, comparing how tall they were in relation to other towers or to kiddos.  The ones playing with the multilink cubes, which have circles on all sides of the cubes and can therefore connect in a variety of ways.

After each kiddo had a chance to spend time with each manipulative, we debriefed on what we had discovered.  We figured out that the cubes could be used for many of the same purposes: measuring, counting and making patterns.  BUT–the multi-link cubes could also be used to build 3D things or models.

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For now, these are just for fun, but very soon mathematicians will be using these tools for very important work!  Stay tuned to see more about it! 🙂

#FDOFG2017–Math in First Grade

We are readers in Rm. 111, but we are also mathematicians!  Early in the year, we got started talking about math, as well as working and thinking like mathematicians.

One of our first experiences was a guided discovery of some math manipulatives.  Ms. Turken and I decided to start with Power Polygons and pattern blocks, because most kiddos have some experience with these tools from kindergarten.  It seems, too, that introducing math in a fun, non-threatening way (like playing and exploring) is accessible to everyone–even those who already have an “I hate math” mentality (and yes, there are some of those friends, even this early. 😦 ).

We did have a quick little conversation about what it meant to “think like a mathematician”, since that was what I was asking them to do.  We charted our ideas, and then left the poster up while we worked.  (**Sidenote–nothing on our chart had anything to do with the manipulatives we worked with, but it was great to begin to see/hear their mathematical thinking already…)

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After we found them in our classroom, I gave kiddos a choice of which ones they wanted to start with, and then set them loose.  The only “rule” was that they had to think like a mathematician and figure out how we might use that tool.  Additionally, we reviewed the “right” way to work with a math tool and kiddos were to pay attention to how well it went (because we would debrief at the end).

After we finished the guided discovery, we met together to talk about how it went.  We worked through a chart to record “plusses” and “deltas”, discussing what went well and what we needed to change.

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For the most part, they did really well, and it was exciting to watch them work.  Stay tuned for more stories of how we’re getting started with math in first grade! 🙂

#FDOFG: Guided Discoveries–Math Manipulatives

I realize this post is a little bit after the true “first days of first grade,” but I’d say it still applies, and the actual learning actually took place then anyway, so that counts, right?

One of the things we do a lot of in the beginning of our time together in first grade is explore.  These guided discoveries take on many forms, and have been done with colored pencils, pattern blocks and play-doh before (among other things that are done less formally).  In the beginning days of math workshop, guided discoveries of math tools are an important learning activity.

Rotating through 6 stations–dominoes, power polygons, multilink cubes, Geoblocks, square inch tiles and Cuisenaire Rods–students were posed two simple questions to consider while they worked: “What could a mathematician use this tool to learn more about?  What are the possibilities?”  Then, in small groups, they explored the tools, for only about 7 or 8 minutes each:

Dominoes

Most kids built things to knock over. LOL

Power Polygons

Many kids put these together in piles and looked through them–they’re made of pretty colors. 🙂 (And yes, we’ll talk about more mathematical ways to use them later–right now it’s just work to figure them out and try things!)

 

Multi-Link Cubes

These tool may be the interesting just because it’s one of the most versatile.  Lots of different kinds of exploration happened in this station.

 Geoblocks

Inch Tiles

Also a versatile tool, kiddos stacked and counted, sorted and created with these little squares!

Cuisenaire Rods

While these blocks have many place value uses, many kids use them as building blocks, and many sorted them by size or color.

The last step was to chart some thoughts on our answers to those questions I posed at the beginning.

It was just the beginning, but definitely got us off on a good foot to some smart mathematical thinking this year!

#FDOFG–Guided Discovery: Pattern Blocks

The last time I was in first grade, I followed suggestions I found in The First Six Weeks of School, and many of the first days started with guided discoveries of materials in the classroom.  I shared the discovery we did with Play-Doh the other day, and this one was very similar, but with pattern blocks and Power Polygons.

We started by talking about what they might be for, as well as why the pattern blocks, Power Polygons and other items on the shelf  (dice, counters, clocks, square tiles) had in common.  We figured out they were all about math, and that later in the year we would be using them as we learned more about geometry, but for our first “visit” kiddos were supposed to make something, and then write what they made on a card so we would all know what it was.  As with all open-ended activities like this, I was amazed at how each kiddo attacked the assignment–how they started, what they made, how they figured out what to call it, how many different pictures they were able to make (based on the complexity of their design or the speed at which they worked).  If we had already gotten our iPads, we could have practiced taking our own pictures, then uploading them into something and writing about them (or using the recorder and telling about them), but instead we just talked.  And smiled because we were so proud of our creations.  It was easy to tell that kiddos were learning and having fun at the same time!

Check out our creations below!

Students: What did you create with your blocks?  How did you decide what you would make?  What would you do if you were given the assignment again?  What was easy and what was hard?

Parents: What did your kiddo tell you about this experience?  What questions do you have?

Teachers: What explorations/discoveries do you have with pattern blocks?  Other manipulatives? What suggestions do you have?

Please leave us a comment!  We love to be connected! 🙂