Inside a kindergarten classroom with Augustana students

How does word choice affect students answers in math?

This week in Number Sense Morgan and I started investigating what students can do and what the students still need to work on. We investigated this idea further, by wondering how students are looking at numbers, patterns, greater or less, etc.

On Tuesday Morgan and I continued are weekly pattern of working with one student at a time to give the students more individual attention and practice with number sense. While Morgan worked with one student using dots and numbers I worked with another student on creating a number line and patterns using a deck of cards. This activity required students to put the numbers in order, 1-10(the students and I decided that the Ace can be represented as number), and then in order by pattern. I would put all the 7’s in a row and then the student would deal cards to themselves and me so that we each started with 7 cards. The student and I would take turns placing cards in the row that matched the suit. I told the students that they could only start the game by placing a card that would be next in line to the cards on our board. For instance, if the student had the 6 or 8 of hearts they could put that card down because the 7 of hearts was already on the board. Students and I placed our cards in front of us facing up so I would be able to see if they were identifying the right cards to play next. I always started the game to model the idea of the card game. This game helped students not only identify numbers and the number line, but it also helped the students recognize patterns, because the students had to learn that even though they had a 5 they didn’t have the 5 in the right pattern that could be played at that time. There were several students who needed guidance with putting cards in the correct pattern, but some students were able to complete the number array fairly quickly. What I noticed most about this activity is that students really had to concentrate and think to where the cards they had go and if they could play that card at that time. For instance, I would ask the student, “do you have any cards that we can add to our number board?” The student would look at all their cards and then look at the board and then looked back at their cards, before realizing that they had no cards that could be played. At that point the student would have to draw another card from the pile. The first person to get rid of all the cards completed the number line and then together we reviewed the cards to make sure they were in the right order and that the patterns matched up. If the students I was working with finished the number line card game before Morgan was finished working with the other student, I used the IPad app, Line ‘Em Up, for more practice with the number line.

On Thursday the students and I did a quick review of the number line by playing a few games of Line ‘Em Up on the Ipad. Then I shifted gears with the students and worked on more, less, or the same with dominos. Morgan and I worked with students who all had different abilities in math, so the “more, less, or the same” game had to be differentiated so that each student would be successful. We started with two students who were at the same math level. These two students still have difficulty recognizing the patterns on the dominos with the numbers 3-6 and have to count the dots in order to tell me how many dots are there.  Since dominos are split in half with a dot pattern on the top and second dot pattern on the bottom I used only one domino with the student to determine if the top half had more, less, or the same amount. The goal for the student was to recognize which dot pattern had more without having to count the dots. I was hoping that all the practice I did doing dot patterns last week would benefit the students at recognizing more, less, or the same. At first the two students began counting the patterns, 4, 5, and 6 every time they were given those patterns, but after awhile of working with the same dot patterns the students understood how to recognize what pattern had more dots. What interested me the most was that students were able to see that one pattern had more dots than the other, but they still counted the patterns to be sure. When I asked the students, “why is that pattern (the one they picked as the more pattern) more than that pattern?” The student’s response was, “because that has more dots.” I asked, “how did you know that pattern has more dots than that pattern?”. The student responded, “this has 5 dots (pointing to one of the patterns) this has 1 dot (pointing to the other pattern)”. I wanted to make sure that the two students would be able to apply the more, less, or same concept if I gave them two numbers and asked, “Is this number (pointing at 5) bigger than this number (3)?”. I was happy to see that the students were pointing to the bigger number without any assistance from dots.


When I worked with another student I asked him to help me make a number line on a piece a paper. I would then point to two numbers on the number line and ask which number is bigger. At one time, I was pointing to the numbers 2 and 8 and the student said 8 is smaller. I wasn’t sure why he thought that 8 was a smaller number, but I decided to give the student 8 dominos and myself 2 dominos and asked who has more dominos. Since objects represented the numbers the student could see that his pile had more dominos than my pile. This made me wonder if the student was confused by the vocabulary, “more vs. bigger”. I continued working with this student who was doing really well at identifying what dominos had more dots, less dots, and the same. I decided to see if the student could identify how many more dots he would need to have the same amount of dominos on each half of the domino. At first the student did not understand the concept, so I decided to use dominos to help the student visualize the problem. I told the student,  “we needed 5 dominos to play this game, but you only have 3, so we need to go to the “domino store” (a pile of dominos) and get how many more before we can play. The student was able to realize how may dominos he needed to add to his pile to get the concept of “how many more”. Hopefully next week we can use the dot patterns on the domino to determine how many more dots do we need to make the patterns the same amount.

One thing that I am currently learning while working with the kindergartners is that vocabulary and the way a question is phrased can help or hinder the students understanding. I am thinking that students are learning words in different contexts and therefore are not making the connection of words to math. For instance, when asking the one student what number is bigger, 8 or 2, he was unable to answer. However, he could tell me that 8 dominos was more than 2 dominos. Should students be learning numbers in the context of bigger and smaller or less and more? And can presenting too many words like, bigger, more, or greater, become confusing to a young mind?

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