Saturday, December 4, 2010

Math Myths

During this visit to an ECCD center about 5 hours travel from my village, the focus was on math - as the teacher had requested. Initially, his plan was to teach whole numbers 1-10 on Monday followed by addition and subtraction during the rest of the week. When we discussed the schedule, I showed him some new examples of concrete manipulatives and ways to make the lesson more constructivist and student centered.

Within the hour he had taken over guiding his students to understand the concepts of quantity, increasing quantity, and the corresponding digit symbols that represent this. We had revised his schema so that digits 1-5 would be the focus this week, and depending on how the students demonstrated understanding there might be a group that moved on to 5-10 next week.

This was an extraordinary lesson to me in how flexible, eager, and enthusiastic ECCD teachers can be to develop their understanding, and thus their students understanding, in math. This ECCD center has requested a number of workshops in the coming year and has agreed to host and lead regional workshops in the Spring as a classroom lab/model center.

These manipulatives are made out of cardboard boxes and matchboxes. All are designed to help the students move from concrete to abstract understanding. In some, the children have to demonstrate understanding of one to one correspondence. In others, the children have to pair or match the quantities with the digit symbols.

The matchbox activity allows the teacher to select digits [not shown here - they are stored in the larger matchbox with the label 1-10] and place them on the white mat space below the box, then the child has to place the appropriate number of small stones in the box to demonstrate understanding of the symbol. This can move through digits 1-10 sequentially, demonstrate odd or even numbers, or be randomized to assess full understanding.

Most importantly, these are materials that are accessible, familiar, easy to assemble or make into math materials, and easy to replace. The teachers will now make multiple replications of these samples so that many children will have the opportunity to use them in the 'Math Center' during indoor activity/center time.

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