The other day we arrived at school about 5 minutes later than usual. It isn’t much, but it means we have arrived after the first bus has dropped off some children. My 5 year old walked up to the boot line and started counting. “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and I am 8! I am the 8th one here today Mommy!” He was unitizing the pairs of boots and knew that 2 boots is equal to 1 child. I was also impressed that he knew about “8th”. He, for a long time, only seemed to understand 1st and last. I suppose some of that comes from being the second of two children, one of whom is keen to point out when she has beat her brother at everything. He understands first because he’s been last a lot. But eighth? That was interesting.
This week I started participating in an online writing challenge I’ve been participating in for 11 years! The participants are mostly writing teachers, definitely people focused on literacy. I’ve been surprised how many, in just the first 2 days, have posted about their gratitude for not having to teach math because they 1) don’t feel competent at math, and/or 2) don’t like math. I honestly don’t know how anyone could possibly spend any time in an elementary school environment and avoid doing math! The boots are just one example of the math that I see all around us daily.
My school’s electives have just wrapped up, and every single week I found myself integrating quick math lessons into our cooking. I know you’re thinking about measurement, but there were a million opportunities to count things. Did we have enough cookies for everyone to make an ice cream sandwich? Were there any cookies to take home? How many brownies would each person get? Did we have enough bowls for everyone to have a serving of apple crisp, including the office staff? If we counted up the number of children in the group, took into account the number of kids who said they hated pineapple-upside-down cake, and divided all the pineapple up, would there be enough pineapple to eat plain? These were important questions that had to be answered.
Of course we do a lot of intentional math, but incidentally there is math around every corner, in every classroom, and definitely in every line of items or children! Maybe the trick is to get the grown-ups to stop treating it like a room to be avoided.