It was that time of the year again for the California Kindergarten Conference in Santa Clara. I have been fortunate to attend this conference two years in a row while here at the AIMS Center. This year was extremely special for me because I was selected, along with one of my colleagues, Jason Chamberlin, to present at the conference. This was my first time presenting at CKC. Jason and I led two presentations: Not Your Regular Math Tools and Moving Beyond Subitizing.
Presenting to this group of teachers was a lot of fun. I felt that the presentations were well received and very helpful for the teachers in attendance. Jason and I were looking to connect the presentations to real classroom experiences. We wanted our message to be that teachers have a wealth of resources and materials in their classroom right now that they can make use of in new and meaningful ways to provide students with rich mathematical experiences. One of our participants commented how refreshing it was to be told she already had the materials in her classroom that she could use to help her give her students more mathematical experiences.
Our Not your Regular Math Tools presentation was not about new tools to use in the classroom, it was about how lots of experiences using many “ordinary” supplies can be the tools that build meaning for students. For instance, any common classroom materials, such as dominos, instruments, dice, counters, and dollar store finds are all the materials teachers really need to provide students with fun and engaging experiences that will add to their meaning of numbers. It’s about giving students the time to count, count, count. Count their fingers, count pips on a dice, count the sounds played on a toy piano. I know this sounds so simple and may not be enough to build rigorous math curriculum, but the that is what students need time to do.
As I reflect back to my own time teaching in a kindergarten classroom, I have not changed a lot of the work that I do with students. Rather, what’s changed is how I view the work my students do. I now value their experiences so much more and I want to give them time to experience numbers in new and playful ways. I have said many times that if someone walked into a classroom I was teaching now they would think, “that’s not hard, I can do that.” But it’s the experiences I allow students to have and the conversations about their thinking that have more value in my classrooms now. When that is our focus, it doesn’t matter what tools I use, but that I allow students to use their experiences to construct meaning.
Our presentations are shared on the outreach section of the AIMS Center website. If you are interested in seeing our presentations, please go check them out. Comment below with any questions or ideas so that we can start a conversation. Now take a second to go back into your classroom and look at the tools you already have. Is there a way you can allow students to use them to build some new experiences?