Monday, 18 February 2013

Kindergarten Inquiry into Measurement

Addressing the number sense and numeracy strands in math in kindergarten is a full time focus.  However we also have 4 other strands to consider and measurement is one of those strands. 

Through simple conversations we have had numerous discussions since the beginning of the year around measurement .... who is shorter, who is taller, who is the tallest person in our classroom, who is the shortest?  


Whenever we think like a mathematician the challenge is always the same..... to explain your thinking and prove your thinking.

Here is a peek into our journey into measurement to date.


When we tried to measure using non standard tools such as popsicle sticks and dowels (as suggested by Liam and Corrado) there was lots of discussion around how to measure. 

MJ - How tall is J?
C - 4
MJ - 4 what?
C - 4 sticks.
MJ - What are you thinking D?
D - 4. 
MJ - You agree with C?
D - Yes because it’s 4 sticks.
MJ - L what are you thinking? 
L - There’s 5 sticks because 1,2,3,4...there’s 4 sticks.
MJ - I noticed that 2 of the sticks are not full sticks. Does that matter?
L - They have to go...(she places sticks touching end to end in a row).
MJ - What did you just do there?
L - I fixed the problem.
MJ - How did you fix it.
L - By put in this one and that one (pointing to middle two dowels), putting it in a pile this one (one at the top) and that one is (one at the bottom).
MJ - Does that now show how tall J is?

C - Nope.
MJ - What do you think C?
C - No.
MJ - Why not. 
C - Cause his feet are not there.

C knew we measure from head to toe to figure out how tall someone is. Some placed sticks/dowels all the way around, counting how many.  Through discussion and observation it was obvious there was some confusion.

This month, even without snow, we still enjoyed some great literature connected with snow, hoping at some point for it to return.  When we read The Biggest, Best Snowman by Margery Cuyler it was a little disappointing to realize we could not go outside and have a chance to build the biggest best snowman.  However inside our classroom we discovered it perhaps WAS possible to build the tallest snowman ever. 

Math partners were given a very long piece of paper and some different size circle objects to use as tracers.  The only instruction was to create the tallest snowman.

What I discovered along the way was that measurement terms are often interchanged by children and it was a difficult task to distinguish between measurement terms such as tallest/shortest and biggest/smallest throughout this activity.    

Snowmen were created, converstions captured, and finally snowmen were hung in the hallway for all to see and compare. 

As tempting as it might be to ‘fix’ the order of the snowman I did not touch them.  Students came out into the hall in small groups, posted their snowman and shared their thinking, often re-arranging the snowmen around.  A few trying to tape theirs way up on the wall to ‘appear’ like the tallest although they were quickly challenged by others to make sure the ‘feet’ were on the ground.

C - L it is supposed to be touching the floor.
L - No leave it up!
MJ - C what would you tell R and L.
C - It should be touching the floor. 
L - No.
MJ - L what did C say?
L - Down the floor. 
MJ - Yes she said touching the floor.

Just so you know, we still don’t have agreement around the order of 
tallest to shortest.  But me fixing it in the end would only show what I know about measurement, not what the students understand, so I have left it as it is!  

A few students are wondering how it is possible that a snowman made from 5 snowballs could be shorter than a snowman created from only 3 snowballs?  We also had some discussion around the hats some snowmen were wearing and the ‘fairness’ of that in our measuring task (e.g. Is it fair that some made their snowman taller by putting a hat on him?).  Finally there were some students who noticed the lines in the walls and used that as a method of measuring, trying to explain height based on where the snowman stands in relation to a horizontal grout line in the wall.  

Obviously our investigation into measuring will continue.  And of course if  we get snow, we will take our challenge outdoors. 

Stay tuned for our next math inquiry! 

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