Shopping for real-world math

McCormick Math Minute: Discover foundational mathematics for young children — in 60 seconds or less.

Math can be intimidating for many young students, because it appears to be abstract and detached from the real world. But when teachers individualize their lessons to connect with each student’s unique interests and abilities, mathematical understanding can blossom.

Book and workshop inspire classroom activity

[img_caption src=”×70.jpg” link=”” align=”right” alt=”Early Math Collaborative logo”]Sheila Houston, a first grade teacher at St. Margaret of Scotland School in Chicago, recently attended an after-school workshop facilitated by Erikson’s Early Math Collaborative on how to tailor a lesson plan on the mathematical concept of “growing patterns” — a regular increase in quantity over time — to their own classroom.

Houston participates in the Collaborative thanks to the Big Shoulders Fund’s support for early math instruction in Chicago’s Catholic schools.

At the workshop, Houston thought about how her students enjoyed reading “The Napping House” by Audrey Wood, a classic children’s book illustrating a growing pattern: on each page, one additional character appears. Houston decided to challenge her students to go further by writing their own books showing a growing pattern.

Writing a book on growing patterns

[img_caption src=”×200.jpg” link=”” align=”right” alt=”Book written by student”]Back in the classroom, Houston and her students discussed what topic to feature in their books. Fashion and foods for football parties were among the students’ suggestions. Houston saw this as an opportunity to reinforce another important lesson: nutrition and the importance of healthy diets.

Together, the class developed a list of healthy foods, complete with pictures. Each student then wrote a book detailing filling a shopping cart.

On each page of the book, the students added a different healthy food to the cart in quantities of 10 and calculated the total number of items in the cart. Students were given different numbers of items to start with, as their individual number sense — that is, their ability to understand quantity and the name associated with that quantity — covered a broad span.

At the end, each student’s book was printed, laminated and bound.

Read one of the student’s books [pdf]

Houston’s intentional teaching and differentiation meant that every child was given the opportunity to engage with and learn important math concepts in the context of their own lives and abilities.