Inside a kindergarten classroom with Augustana students

Inconsistency and Wrong Answers…No Problem!

Hello loyal blog readers! It has been a long time since I have last written. Today the kindergarten room was a bit crazy. It is amazing the inconsistency that children have from day to day. Kindergarteners can count to 100 one day and the next will barely make it to the number 20. Today I worked with my good friend Benny on the computer. He was having some issues with remembering his numbers today. On Monday, Benny and I worked on making combinations of numbers that would equal 10. He was learning basic addition successfully! I was so excited! We made towers together to make 10 by showing him that a tower of 5 and 5 were 10 and that 8 and 2 were 10, etc. Then we played a thumbs up/thumbs down game. Benny had to give me a thumbs up if the two numbers I mentioned made 10 and a thumbs down if the two numbers I mentioned did not make 10. He only missed a few of the problems and understood that 10 and 0 made 10! The number 0 is an extremely hard concept for young children to understand and the fact that he knew what it meant is so amazing.

He also understands the idea of one less which is also an extremely difficult concept for young children to comprehend. He needs to work on understanding one more which will be our goal in the future. Nevertheless I left the classroom on Monday feeling ecstatic about the progress that Benny had made. However today he seemed to have regressed back to the middle of the year! He could not recognize hardly any of his numbers or put them in order from least to greatest! It was ridiculous how poorly he was performing on the computer today. I do not think it had anything to do with the technology. He simply could not recall those facts we had gone over for months! What was so interesting about the situation was that the other teachers exclaimed that this happened with their students. Laura said that one of her girls counted to 100 earlier this week. Today she could barely communicate and kept saying that 10 was the answer to every question. Sara experienced a similar situation with one of her students. Was there some type of voodoo in the air? I do not know, but the inconsistency of young children amazes me! It proves the importance of making sure to revisit certain concepts and to make sure the students do not forget them. I guess I have learned my lesson on that matter.

While Benny was meandering through recognizing his number without much progress, my other two students were doing full blown addition problems! Ryan and Jenny did an amazing job today. Obviously they had some immunity to the magical voodoo that was in the room. I began with the number line addition computer game. From the beginning it was obvious that addition with 1s, 2s, and 3s was far too easy for them. So I made the problems much more difficult. I was baffled when Ryan told me that 7 and 8 were 15. I almost fell out of my chair. That is a hard problem! Some adults cannot answer that quickly! Then Jenny told me that 10 and 9 were 19. They seemed to comprehend the material until Ryan told me that 7 and 7 were 7. I could not figure out what was going on until I looked at the number line. I realized he was beginning at 0 and counting up 7 more so his answer then appeared to be 7.

I grasped that the next time I needed to teach him that he must begin at the first number in the problem and not zero. Once he understands that aspect he will be able to see how 7 and 7 make 14. At that moment I recognized that the mistakes students make tell us more about them than when they give the correct answer. I could see that Ryan’s thinking process was correct, but that he was still missing a link along the chain. Now that I made the formative assessment of what was going wrong, I know next time to explicitly focus on the number line. Then Ryan will understand what is going on and how he can use the number line to help him understand.

What a day in the kindergarten room! I have no answer for the inconsistency of students’ knowledge, but hopefully someday an intelligent soul will find the answer! Throughout this process I have learned numerous pieces of wisdom, but one is that a wrong answer is equally as important as a right one. It can tell us what the student is thinking and what may be going wrong with his/her thought process. What a wonderful opportunity I have been given to gather all this insight about teaching!

One Response to “Inconsistency and Wrong Answers…No Problem!”

  1. you’re right~often we learn as much from children’s incorrect responses as we see what it is they are uncertain of or misinterpreting. It reminds us to keep tabs on learning goals and revisit them!

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