Sunday, May 1, 2011

Counting Insects-Learning Math Through Play

I collect small things that children can count.  I love to pair these interesting items up with dice and make games.  There is an exciting element to rolling a die and rooting for a certain number. 

Children learn a great deal about counting and number sense by experiencing numbers in various forms.  On a die you see numbers represented in dots.  With experience you start to see an image of three or five or six in your mind which makes adding, subtracting, estimating and other number operations easier.  Plus, rolling dice 
is fun.

This week I combined small butterfly erasers, cut up pipe cleaner “caterpillars” and small plastic lady bugs.  We were playing a game where you roll a die and then add that many bugs of your choice to the plant paper- this was simply a piece of clip art that I enlarged onto 8 x 11 paper.  

Toward the end of the week, we changed it so that each number on the die represented a certain insect. If you rolled a 1 or 6 you chose that many butterflies; a 2 or 5 and you took that many caterpillars and a 3 or 4 had you taking ladybugs.  The children took turns rolling and collecting bugs until they had one insect on each leaf.  When this happened we each sorted our bugs into groups to see which kind each person had the most of and the least of in their groups.

This simple math game had the children sorting, counting, recognizing numbers, comparing, organizing, practicing rote counting, counting one object at a time, visualizing number groups, turn taking and more.  Not to mention the science as one of my students said, “these two ladybugs are eating those tiny bugs we read about….what were they called again?”  So we talked about aphids while the next few people took their turns.
Playing the game with my students was a fun and easy way to assess many of their math skills in order to see where I can best scaffold their future learning experiences.  

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