Some of the most precious and meaningful memories I have from teaching kindergarten came from a classroom stuffed bear I called Mr. Teddy. He was part of six kindergarten classes. He would go home with a new student every Monday and return to class on Friday with a new story to tell that had been recorded in a journal illustrated by the students and written down, sometimes by the child, but most of the time by parents. There were stories about going to the park, helping in the kitchen, watching a movie, cleaning up a room, just to name a few. Sometimes the stories were written in Spanish, and sometimes there would just be an illustration. My students LOVED Mr. Teddy, and they considered it a great honor to take him home and then share their time at home together in the classroom. Students from those classes would often return to visit Mr. Teddy after I began teaching 1st and 3rd grade. In the 6 years Mr. Teddy was in my classroom, he was only lost once, and even then he was found on the school bus and quickly returned.
Mr. Teddy came from a desire to to give opportunities to my students to find stories to write about outside of school. My goal as a teacher was to have parents and students form an emotional bond with Mr. Teddy and have them see how they could find opportunities to illustrate and write about in their everyday lives. Now I’m about to do the same thing, but with a different goal. Instead of storytelling, I want to help children by mathematizing their world. I know that mathematizing a child’s world is essential to connecting math experienced in the classroom. Just as I wanted to have students find stories to write about in their everyday life, I also want them to find mathematical experiences in their everyday life.
That brings me to the introduction of Stef the Moose. Stef the Math Moose (named after Dr. Leslie P. Steffe), will be joining me on my new adventure as the math teacher in a kindergarten classroom. If you have read my previous blog entries, you know that I and fellow Research Associate, Beverly Ford, will be teaching math in classrooms everyday starting in August. Beverly will be in a 1st grade classroom, while I will be in a kindergarten classroom. Both of us will be have our own Stef the Moose. Stef will follow the same routine that Mr. Teddy did in my past classroom experiences, but now he will be focusing on math that is happening at school and at home. I am so excited to hear stories about students finding things to count in their bedrooms, measuring in the kitchen, sharing with siblings, or even looking for shapes at the park. When students know that math is all around them, they can find opportunities to keep learning and exploring their mathematical world. Stef the Moose will hopefully help make math more fun and meaningful for students. He will also allow students and parents to have meaningful mathematical conversations around everyday life.
Do you try to establish home-to-school connections in your classroom? Have you ever thought of centering these connections on mathematics? I look forward to sharing Stef’s adventures and how students begin to mathematize their world.