March 28, 2019
I visited a first grade classroom last week, where the students were watching a short video that completely captured their attention – and mine.
The two-minute video showed a bag of groceries being placed on a kitchen countertop. A furry hand (Cookie Monster) came from behind the counter and grabbed a package of Oreos from the grocery bag. The audience could hear the opening of the package, some rustling of the bag, and then the package of cookies appeared back on the countertop minus several cookies.
The teacher handed two math partners the same photograph of a tray with the missing cookies. She invited them to explore: “What do you notice?,” “What do you wonder?,” and “What questions should we be asking?” The class engaged in a short discussion around these questions, and then the first graders were tasked to solve how many cookies were missing. This mathematical task provided a low entry point, and a high ceiling for students to be challenged to work at the highest and most appropriate level for their current skills and understanding.
I observed the children making multiple connections about the missing treats. They were communicating back and forth about their observations for how to solve the math problem. Students were building upon their ideas, and challenging one another’s thinking. They were counting, drawing, and sharing their individual methods and perspectives towards a solution.
After coming to agreement, each pair of students added an entry to their Seesaw digital journal to explain their thinking for how they arrived at an answer.
Students came to their answers using multiple strategies, and they modeled their reasoning aloud using mathematical language and drawings. Responses confirmed that the first graders have a strong sense of number literacy, as all the responses were within reason.
Building and encouraging growth mindsets within our classroom communities allows for curiosity to flourish in mathematics. And nurturing mathematical playfulness through exploration invites the wonder and perseverance that we want to see in our young students.