Mathematizing ~ Counting Stories

Mathematizing defined by Allen Rosales is the process of understanding math within the context of children’s daily lives.

Last weekend, while cleaning my garage, I came across three lesson plan books from when I taught Kindergarten and First grade. Why I hadn’t gotten rid of them earlier, I don’t know.  Rather than immediately tossing them I looked through each one, and as I flipped the pages I noticed that I had highlighted all my math lessons/activities and centers.  Math was interwoven throughout my day, from the moment my kiddos entered to the time they left to go home. As I looked through my lesson plan books and read my notes it hit me: my classes were more mathematically rich than I had previously thought and in hindsight, why would it not be? Math was the subject I most enjoyed teaching. But more importantly, unbeknownst to me I was mathematizing my students’ daily lives.

I particularly loved collecting data about my kiddos, a love that developed while attending an AIMS Math Festival during the summer of 1997. Beginning the first day of school that year and every year thereafter, I posed questions to my students during whole group time (how they got to school, their favorite foods, color, sport to play, …).  Because my questions pertained to them, they loved it.  Their responses allowed them to count, compare, and quantify which in turn led to the writing of counting (math) stories based on what the data told us.

Though we collected a lot of data and composed lots of counting stories throughout the year, what I failed to do was celebrate our year by doing cumulative graphing activities to summarize our year together. If I had, I am sure it would have given me some insight into what during our time together stood out, what they would remember, what really resonated with them, what they considered important, valuable, and fun. It also would have helped me to continue to see mathematics from children’s perspectives and to consider the mathematics possible in their own lived experiences.

During one of my drives to work I began thinking, how might I help my teacher friends use counting stories and data collection and graphing within their classrooms?  Hence, I developed a quick how to…

Summarizing Counting Stories with Data Collection and Graphing

  • Start with a question: What is it that children will count? What is the data you want to collect? Ask a personal question that reflects your students’ own lived experiences, thus giving meaning to the story.
  • Determine how you will organize the data for interpretation: After counting, data may be organized into charts, pictures, tables, concrete materials, or by using some type of graph. You will need to decide which is best tool for the information you are collecting.
  • Collect the data: Pose your question and let children respond.
  • Tell the counting story: After students have gathered and organized the data, have them look at the story the data tells. You, the teacher, can ask questions that support the story, that help students interpret the data, that lead to analyzing relationships between the data, as well as seeing patterns and trends.

As you bring closure to the school year, what stories might you want to tell with your students to summarize your time together? What counting stories will arise? What might you notice from your children’s perspectives and lived experiences?

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