The students’ extended family members also became involved. One grandmother’s tireless campaigning resulted in the donation of thousands of items. Many parents said their children had never been more enthusiastic about a project. The communication between home and school created a positive cycle of continued learning.
As an educator who believes in emergent curriculum, I am always considering ways our inquiries are successfully fulfilling the Ministry of Education’s Full-Day Kindergarten expectations. When classroom activities are authentic and deeply rooted in children’s interests, it is easy to engage them in rich math and literacy experiences and collect valid information for evaluation purposes.
Math: Calculating how many items were donated each day was a big part of our project. Children proudly brought food and placed it on the carpet as they entered the room each morning. We would estimate how many items were in the collection before placing the objects into groups. Some days the children sorted the food by shape of container; other days it was the size or type of the contents. They worked cooperatively to count the items and then reported how many had been donated in our classroom at the beginning of circle.
The children were confident in their number sense and computation abilities. Number talks had been a major focus during our whole group discussions and the children were confident using tools (e.g., ten frames, hundreds charts) and strategies (e.g., counting by tens, working with ‘friendly numbers’) to solve difficult math problems.
Each day the children suggested a number of ways to conduct an accurate count of the items. At first they worked with friendly numbers, placing the items in groups of five and counting by fives to get a total. The next day they counted using groups of 10. With experience and confidence they suggested more advanced strategies such as counting by groups of 25 or using ‘unfriendly numbers’ such as 13 for a challenge.
When the time came to calculate the final number of items our ‘counting crew’ worked to group objects into collections of 25 and 100 and added everything together to get a sum of 967. Onlookers were astonished at the confidence and accuracy our kindergarten children demonstrated in this very challenging math problem. This authentic situation helped to differentiate the math experience for learners in a collaborative and meaningful way. Children created groupings of their own choice and these were added together; each child worked at his or her comfort level. It also demonstrated what children can accomplish when they are highly motivated, personally invested and challenged to independently solve a complex problem.