“Who uses math every day in their professions?” Ms. Fiona asks a group of twelve third year Primary students. Hands dart up in the air enthusiastically.
When called on, one student replied, “Bridge engineers!”
“Nurses use math,” shared another.
Yet another said, “My mom uses math because she’s a doctor.”
Continuing around the group until everyone with a hand raised has a chance to share, we learn that postmen, video game designers, astronauts, and so on all use math in their professions every day.
Kindergarten Math Club begins this way each week. Students learn about a new person who uses math in their work. Math Club builds a bridge between the students’ school math experience and the world around them, so that they better understand how math is relevant and how it may fit into their own lives.
Creating a real world connection is just one of the goals of Math Club, a new Kindergarten experience offered at Wellan. We developed this model to complement the Montessori math work students practice in the classroom, where they use hands-on Montessori materials to gain a strong conceptual understanding of numbers and operations. Research shows that reinforcing concepts in different contexts helps students become more flexible mathematic thinkers. In Math Club, the students work with numbers represented in a variety of ways, such as Dot Patterns, Ten Frames, Number Lines, Fact Families, and Parts/Wholes. These different visual representations help reinforce students’ number sense. Each week, the students learn and practice games together and then bring those games back to their classrooms to explore further.
Another goal of Kindergarten Math Club is for students to have math conversations. When students share their own strategies with each other, they open their minds and learn new things. For example, during several sessions, the students focused on subitizing, which means recognizing a number of items without actually counting them out. We showed students a Dot Card and asked, “How many dots do you see?”The students responded, “8.” Then we asked, “How do you know?” That’s where things got interesting!
One student said, “I know because there are 2 rows of four, and 4+4 is 8.” Another student added, “I saw 4 and 4 also, but not in rows.” He pointed to the bottom square-shaped configuration of dots and then the top one to explain his strategy. A third student offered a completely different strategy. She said, “I counted by twos . . . 2, 4, 6, 8.” These types of math conversations help everyone see different perspectives and expand their own thinking.
A final goal of Kindergarten Math Club is for students to become fluent in working with numbers 1–10 in preparation to move up to Wellan's Lower Elementary program. The various games they practice and the conversations about math they engage in all revolve around number sense within ten (and beyond for some who are ready). Over the course of the semester, we see students become increasingly comfortable and fluent with numbers 1–10. The schema and strategies the students develop in Kindergarten Math Club will help them throughout their math journeys, far beyond Kindergarten.