My brilliant kindergarten colleagues Lauren Nye and Courtney Carroll recently came up with another engaging way to practice counting in a playful way–making pretend hot chocolate. This counting task mirrors our Halloween Trick or Treat play in which children counted to a specific number, a different kind of task than when children are asked to count all of a collection.
Children were given a set of plastic holiday cups each marked with a number 1-20, indicating the number of marshmallows that a customer would get in their pretend hot chocolate at the hot chocolate shop. The kids loved getting into the play of it. “Oh, this person is so sad, only two marshmallows!” or “You are the lucky one. Twenty for you.” “Seven for you, nine for you, looks almost the same.” Playful, mathematically rich conversation.
As I watched them work, here are the mathematically significant information I was looking for:
1) Does the child recognize the numeral on the cup automatically? Or does she use a tool (number line, number grid) to figure out what number word/quantity the numeral corresponds to?
2) Does the child maintain 1:1 while counting the marshmallows? If not, where does he lose the 1:1?
3) Does the child understand that she needs to stop adding marshmallows at the numeral written on the cup? Early counters will often not yet monitor for the stopping number, but rather continue counting.
4) Is the child consistent in number word order? Watch for children who get lost in the teens or meld 13/14 into one number, forget the decade numbers.
As this task was occurring mostly while I facilitated math exchanges with small groups (with some check-ins from me), I wanted to make sure that the task was truly independent. This task was a good fit for most of my students. For more struggling students I limited the number of marshmallow cups and taught them to use a number line or ask a friend to help them identify the numeral. Here are a couple of ideas for those who complete this task with ease.
1) Extend the hot chocolate task to larger numbers, 20-30, or 50-60. Do they start organizing in any way (by tens, perhaps) to make sure they don’t get lost in the counting of the higher numbers?
2) Give the child several different size cups. Ask: “Which cup do you think will hold the most marshmallows? The least? Can you test your estimate? When the child has filled the cup half way, “Do you want to stick with your original estimate or change it? Why?”
3) How many marshmallows do you think come in one bag? Is there an easy way you could figure that out?
Leading Into Problem Solving
And, of course, with all counting tasks, I like them to lead into problem solving. Here are some problems we will be solving when we get back from winter break.
1) ___ friends each have a mug of hot chocolate. They put ___ marshmallows into each their mugs. How many marshmallows did the friends use altogether? (Multiplication)
2) Ms. Wedekind has ____ marshmallows to put in Avery, Miguel, and David’s marshmallow mugs. She wants to make sure each child gets the same number of marshmallows. How many marshmallows will she put in each mug of hot chocolate? (Partitive Division)
What counting and problem solving tasks are keeping your mathematicians’ brains warm this winter season?