Last week when I visited Louesa Byrne’s Kindergarten class at Thompson, it was during the afternoon which is usually their project time. Not wanting to disrupt their typical classroom practices, Louesa and I discussed how as teachers, we might provoke or inspire the students to think about measurement during their project time. When I arrived Louesa had already set out some provocations for the afternoon as well as some existing projects the students had been working on.
She also presented the materials from the measurement kit out on a table, thinking that investigating those materials could be a project in itself for some students.
Many students moved to their projects and I don’t think they gave measurement a second thought and that is okay. Others played around with the idea of measuring within their projects. Drawing the beautiful poinsettia flower, followed by the recording of its height with numbers (a carry over from another student’s measuring strategy from another time) and then with gems engaged a student. The numbers are a playing around with the idea of measurement – this student said “the flower is 8 numbers” tall. The numbers are different sizes and may not be connected to the idea of a measuring “unit” at this point (although her unit might actually be “numbers” but they stand to represent an increase in tallness for this student.
She then used some of the class’ construction blocks and explained that the flower was “one and this much” tall.
When I asked her about measuring she said:
“When I think about measuring I think about counting and which one is bigger.”
Other students continued to explore the relationship in size between the measuring cups, this time exploring with sand.
Two boys went right over to the table with their folders of NFL and Canucks player information. One was particularly excited to tell me all about the stats of his favourite players. We connected to the ideas of speed and distance from our whole class measurement conversation to the information he had collected about the players. He wondered how fast the players really were and I could sense he needed to be have something to compare their speed to. Faster than a car? No. Faster than you? YES!
Two girls engaged in their own little measuring project with the matryoshka dolls for most of the afternoon.
Figuring out how to measure the dolls was a challenge in itself and one little girl used two rulers masterfully to read the height of the dolls. I regret not asking her what made her think to do that or if she had measured like this before or seen someone else doing this.
The girls read the numbers on the rulers, again, not with a truly clear sense of measuring “units” but demonstrating an understanding that they could use those numbers to compare and order the relative sizes of the dolls, as can be seen in their recordings.
One girl said, “This one is so tiny. The numbers are how tall or medium or short they are. Measuring helps us know how big or short or tall.”
Another girl explained, “I measured how tall they are. I used the rulers. The numbers tell me how tall it is. This little one is two and a half (recorded as 2+).”
One student questioned, “Why are we doing math in our projects?” and this caused some pondering between Louesa and I. Interesting, how at five, students may already see “subjects” as separate and it made us think about how to discuss interdisciplinary thinking and projects with young children.
Both Louesa and I saw lots of potential for students using measurement in their project time – especially in the construction area and we wondered about when to provoke or “toss the ball” and when to let the students bring up the idea of including measurement themselves.
The matryoshka dolls are such a hit in this kit, that we are going to add some new varieties – owls, penguins, etc. and we also need to think about what other measuring tools we might include.
Thinking about the materials, thinking about the students’ responses to the materials and thinking about provocations and what they can offer and how to support students in transferring their thinking about mathematics beyond their “math time”…all part of this professional inquiry!