I’m old, therefore, I can’t remember back 30 some odd years ago to when I had a good math lesson in elementary school. But, I spent a few days observing math lessons at the kindergarten where I work earlier this month, and I loved what I saw. Ms. Fox had lessons that were engaging and full of manipulatives for the students, and I loved her style of classroom management. In a class of 20, she has them broken down into 4 groups of four to five. She sets up the 4 tables in the classroom with different math activities, and the students rotate around the room. I want to steal her management style for telling students when it’s time to rotate; she says, “Macaroni and cheese,” and they respond, “Everybody freeze.”
At the different tables, there were worksheets along with a variety of manipulatives. One table had a 10-frame page with dots in each frame and unifix cubes. Students were told to count the dots on their worksheets and then build a tower out of the cubes with that number of dots. It was cool to see how tall some of the towers got. There was another table that had cups of beans. They were instructed to flip them and count how many beans landed on the blue side; once they knew that number, they had to color in that number of beans on their worksheet.
On the first day I was there, Ms. Fox told me about the Starboard in her room. She said, “It’s really cool, when it works.” On the third day, I got to see a major Starboard fail. She had a digital spinner ready to go, but the Starboard wouldn’t work. So, thinking on her feet, she made a spinner in class with a piece of cardboard, a pushpin, and a paper clip. I was impressed with how quickly she transitioned into a new plan and how she kept student interest with the use of creative problem solving. When the paper clip would land on a number, she would ask students what number was before or after the number they had landed on. The students couldn’t wait for their turns!