This past week my work life and my daughter’s school life came crashing together in the most wonderful way.
On the way home from school on Thursday, she asked if we could practice “take away.” At first we practiced numerical problems like “What is 3 take away 1?” and “What is 5 take away 2?” Eventually I asked her if I could tell my problems in a story. The rest of the ride home we told “take away” stories. I told a few, and then she wanted it to be her turn:
- “This one is sad. There were 2 cats and 1 of them died.”
- “There were 6 oranges on the counter. A girl ate 2 of them and they died in her mouth.”
- “There were 8 trees, and 3 of them got cut down.”
- “There were 6 roads, and 2 of them fell down.” (I was able to figure out she was referring to overpasses because that’s what we were driving under at the time.)
Slightly morbid, but she’s 6 years old, so I roll with it, especially since she isn’t usually this chatty about anything related to school.
Anyway, as we were getting closer to home, I remembered that the math unit she’s currently in in school uses some numberless word problems, so I asked, “Have you ever had a problem about some geese and some of them stop to rest?”
“How did you know that?!”
“What about a problem about a boy who checks out some books from the library and returns only some of them?”
“Yes! How did you know that one!”
“Because I wrote them.”
“What do you mean?!”
“I’m the author of the take away stories you’ve been working on in math class.”
And thus our two worlds – my work and her school – came crashing together for the first time ever.
I’ve mentioned to her before that I work with and help teachers, but it’s always been in the abstract. Finding out that I was the author of specific problems she’s encountered in her classroom just blew her mind. She wanted to see some of them when she got home. Knowing she probably won’t always be this interested in my work, I was only too happy to oblige.
As I was scrolling through the suggested unit plan to find the numberless word problems, I asked her about other tasks in the unit to see which ones she remembered. I asked about Bag-O-Chips, a 3 Act Task from Graham Fletcher, which was planned for the day after the numberless word problems, but she said she’d never seen it before. I have no idea how closely her teacher follows the unit plan, but lo and behold, the next day in the car when I asked what she did at school she said, “We did the bags of chips!”
We talked a little bit about the task in the car, and a little later as we finished up dinner I showed her the Act 1 video. Her eyes lit up. “That’s the video!”
We kept going back and forth between the image of what came in the bag and the image of what should have come in the bag. She happily used her fingers to figure out how many missing bags there were of each flavor.
I thoroughly enjoyed talking through the task with her, and what a pleasant surprise when she wanted to do another.
I’m not one to pass up an opportunity talk about math with my daughter, so I quickly scanned Graham’s list of 3 Act Tasks to find one I know we didn’t include in our suggested unit plans. I settled on Peas in a Pod.
First, we watched the video and estimated how many peas would be in each of the pods.
“I think there are 3 in this one, 4 in this one, and 10 in this one. No, 13 in this one.” (She estimated from right to left in case you’re wondering.)
“Hmm,” I said, “I think 3 is a good guess for the first one. I think there might be 4 or 5 in the second one, and I’m going to agree with your first guess of 10 for the third one.”
Estimation is a new skill for Kindergarten students. I talk about guessing and she talks about being right. She thinks the goal is to be the person who guesses the correct (exact) amount. I’m going to keep talking about being close and reasonable because over time I know her understanding of what estimation is will develop and refine.
Then we watched the reveal video.
“I wasn’t right and you weren’t right!” She exclaimed.
“That’s okay. All of our guesses were pretty close, even though none of them matched the exact number of peas. I was surprised that this one only had 2 peas in it. I thought for sure there were more in there.”
“Hmm, I have another question for you. How many peas are there altogether?”
“Let me count.”
“I want to see if you can do it without counting on the picture. How many peas were in each pod?”
“8 and 7…and 2.”
“So how could you figure out the total?”
At first she tried using her fingers. She counted out 8 fingers, and then continued counting from there. I couldn’t really tell what she was doing, but at one point, after lots of ups and downs of fingers, she said, “18.”
I didn’t say that though. Instead I said, “Hmm, I wonder if that’s the right amount. What other tool could we use to check your answer?”
She decided to get her Math Rack to check, and as a complete surprise to me she said, “Can you make a video of me?” Make a video of you solving a math problem? Why, of course!
Watching her first attempt, it was fascinating seeing her trying to keep track of two separate counts: (1) counting on from 8, “…9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14,…” and (2) counting the 7 she was combining with the 8, “1, 2, 3, 4, 5,…”
It seems like she abandoned the double counting when she was so close to being done. I wonder if she sort of gave up and just continued counting to 18 since that’s what she had thought the answer was before.
I had a split second to think about how to respond. I didn’t want to confirm whether the answer was correct, and I wanted to see if she would be willing to try combining the three quantities again.
There was definitely a lot more accuracy when she separately modeled each quantity! I was impressed with the double counting she was attempting earlier, but in the end she was more successful when she could show each quantity separately and then count all.
It was a proud dad moment when she didn’t just accept 17 as the correct answer. She decided we should look at the picture of all the open pea pods to check. And, sure enough, when I held up the phone with the image of all the open pea pods, she was able to count all and verify that there were in fact 17 peas.
All in all, I’m over the moon. All year long I’ve asked her about school (and math), but up until now her answers have been fairly vague. (“I’m so surprised,” said no parent ever.) The most I’d gotten out of her before was that they did Counting Collections.
But now we’ve actually had a full blown conversation about the work she’s been doing in school, specifically activities I wrote or helped plan for our Kindergarten units. I’ve always loved talking about counting and shapes and patterns with my daughter since before she ever started school, but to have our worlds collide like this was really special. I enjoyed getting to share and talk about my work with a very different, and more personal, audience than I’m used to.