I am using the spiralling document found on EduGains to work through my math program this year. The first week is meant to be devoted to sorting and organizing skills from the Data Management strand of our math curriculum. I decided to get started on Monday even though we were, ironically, waiting for information about re-organizing classes because of our enrolment numbers. Because I will be coming back to sorting and organizing many times, I didn’t worry about doing this without a few students who will be joining our class on Monday.

I started with some “Guess My Rule” slides I made on PowerPoint. I had enough to do 3-4 each day this week. As we discussed them, everyone tried to “guess my rule” and we discovered that there could be 5 or 6 different guesses and all could be correct. What mattered here was the ability to justify one’s “guess” about my rule. This is a really important skill that everyone needs early on!

Next, out came our math tools. Everyone worked on sorting the tool of their choice. I haven’t started with a “guess my rule” game before and I was pleasantly surprised to find that my students did not focus on sorting by colour. This is often a problem. I have to spend a lot of time getting them to think about other attributes. I feel like the “guess my rule” activity set them up for success because they were already trying to be very clever and “trick” their friends. Nobody is tricked by colour, so we (most of us) tried to think more deeply about our tools. Those who needed prompting quickly moved on past colours. The work we did last week on how to use the math tools properly also paid off!

Some of the tools I chose for them to use included the necklaces, coloured glass marbles from the dollar store, attribute blocks, and base ten blocks.

The necklaces were sorted by colour, but also by bead type.

Attribute blocks were sorted by colour, shape and thickness.

These glass beads are the best money I’ve ever spent at the dollar store. They are very versatile: bingo chips, counters, sorting tool, and some kids just love playing with them for no reason at all! They can only be sorted by colour…or so I thought! Turns out they are not all exactly the same size. The new ones I bought this summer, 10 years newer than most of the others, are slightly larger and a slightly different shade of blue and green. I’ve lost a whole bag worth of red over time. They are very popular!

We did this sorting activity for 2 days because we had some other interruptions that shortened our math class. On the third day, I asked them to use any material in the room to create their own “Guess My Rule” page. Here are a few. Can you guess the rule? Once again, there were many possibilities guessed, so I know students were looking at many attributes of the materials they chose.

This activity was a lot of fun. We had a field trip on Thursday, so we were doing math in the real world instead of in the classroom. On Friday, the students had all been re-sorted into the class they will have for the rest of the year. I elected not to do the math I had planned because I want to do it with my “new” class (about 1/3 are new to me since the first day.) So here I am, going into the 4th week of school and already “behind” where I thought I’d be. Typical! But I am not worried because I will come back to those activities later when sorting comes up again.

Next week: Counting! This is where I would typically start. I’m glad I started somewhere else because I have seen everyone as mathematicians aside from their ability to count. I need to start my math interviews as well, so some of the centres I had created for organizing will work as activities to keep people productively engaged while I am doing individual assessments.