Inside a kindergarten classroom with Augustana students

Number Banks

Welcome back everyone! If you failed to read my first blog entry, my name is Dana Wleklinski and I am also one of the former math assistants. To catch up on some personal facts about me, click onto to my Biography page. I hope you all have been enjoying our posts, as we look forward to informing you about our morning adventures with our kindergarten students. This past Friday, I worked with those students who need a little extra help when it comes to their understanding of numbers. Although we all can become frustrated with teaching, at times, boy is it a rewarding experience when we see that light bulb going off for your student. It’s a feeling of an accomplishment when not only has your lesson been well received by the student, but the student demonstrates real understanding through his or her work! So let me share with you why Friday was so rewarding for me.

This past week the teacher that Colleen, Jessi, and I have been working with instructed us to help her students understand coin currency. Recently she bought a play store from Menards that she would like to set up for the students, so it is her goal for the students to learn and understand currency well enough to be able to enjoy this fun game during free time. She was so excited about this, as I would be too, for her students will not only be able to have fun with this game, but they will also be practicing their everyday math at the same time! What a great tool for our kindergarteners! So, for this to be able to happen, the students would first need to start understanding how much a coin is worth, putting numbers in order, etc.

My responsibility was for the children to practice counting out the correct number of pennies and putting the correct number of pennies into a small plastic bottle that was labeled 1-12. To start off, I had to explain to the children that 1 penny was equal to 1 cent. I thought that each child would easily understand this concept, but this can be quite difficult for a child if they are having difficulty counting 1 to 10 in general. It wasn’t long, though, before I began to feel like a failure on Friday. For privacy purposes I am changing the name of the first student I worked with and will refer to him as student X, or simply X. X was unable to understand his task of putting a specific number of pennies in each bottle. In fact, at first, X student did not even want to say the number aloud to me. He would just hold up a guess of any number of fingers to tell me how many pennies should go into the bottle. It was difficult for this child to count to 10. He might be able to do it the first time, but the next time, would start with random numbers such as 4, instead of 1, and continue to mix up his numbers. Also, X would always want to count 1, 6, and 9. For some odd reason, he felt the need to skip by three, but I doubt he knew he was counting by three’s. Since this child could not even count to 10 without making a mistake, I tried to change his task so it would be still less challenging. We forgot about having to put a specific number of pennies into each bottle, and instead made piles of pennies 1-7. Unfortunately this still proved too challenging for X, needing a lot of assistance because he would continue to count over or under the desired amount. I could tell X was not having fun and was becoming easily frustrated since he could not complete any of the given tasks to him. I tried to stay calm and focused, knowing if he sensed my frustration, he would only feel further frustrated. We just tried to take one pile at a time, instructing him to make a pile of 5 pennies, and then using repetition, make another pile of 5 pennies again and again. So ultimately, he was practicing the given number multiple times and beginning to show progress. I did not want the child to become too frustrated, so eventually I did let him off the hook and let him know that with more practice, it would become easier and easier.

My next student was a student I am very familiar in working with because I had to work with him for my elementary math class. This is the student that gives me the feeling of the greatest sense of accomplishment, for each day he shows improvement. Originally, he used to often give up so easily, lacking confidence. Again, for privacy purposes, we will call this student Y, or simply Y. Y could put the correct number of pennies in each bottle. The only number that seemed to stump him was the number eleven. When Y couldn’t do this correctly, he made this statement, “I can’t believe I can’t put 11 pennies in the bottle.” He is adorable when he doubts himself because he is so capable of succeeding. He just needs to learn to be confident in his answers, but that will all come in time. If he slows down and thinks about it, he always arrives at the correct answer. Also, Y could put bottles 1-12 in the correct order, but sometimes he has trouble recognizing the number 9, because it looks like number 6. So, in order to correct this I made him look at both of these numbers and tell me which one is 6, and which one is number 9. We repeated this a few times, so he could eventually start to recognize the difference between the two. Overall though, it was a good day for Y.

The next student I worked with found the activity of putting the correct number of pennies into the bottle a breeze. Although, he did need a bit of assistance after the number 10. The activity that was most challenging for this child (student Z) was recognizing the numbers on the bottle, and putting them in the correct order from 1-12. If I told Z what the number was on the bottle, he could give me that correct number of pennies, but he had trouble recognizing the symbol for the number. I believe simple flashcards may eventually help this child accomplish this, so I am  encouraged by Z as well.

So although each student struggled initially with learning the concept of currency, they were also clearly making progress in their own individual way. What more could I ask of them? My hope is that soon all of the students will routinely understand coin currency, and be able to accomplish all of these tasks with little assistance. But during this journey everyday that I go into Longfellow Elementary School these students put a smile on my face. They brighten my day because I know that all of them are working so hard, and we are all seeing their progress and daily improvements! Although each day at Longfellow brings us new challenges, our students keep us on our toes and brings us such excitement and hope for their future. I know you will want to continue to follow along in our blogs to check out all of our adventures and see your children grow!

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