Math is integrated into most of the learning centres in the classroom. Although glancing around the room, it often looks just like play. To ensure that I am continually assessing for math, I keep a clipboard of observations sheets accessible. I prefer observation sheets that have a square with each child’s name that I can fill-in with any pertinent information I want. Then, by glancing at the sheet, I can easily see if there is a blank box and ensure that I seek out that child to observe. Looking around the classroom, I may see children measuring at the water table, sorting in the drama centre, or comparing shapes in the building centre. I approach and listen. Often, I can record their understanding with a phrase or a brief description. Then, I am able to clarify or extend their learning. For example, if a child is counting animal figures and gets stuck at 15, I may direct them to the number line to show them what was missed. Observation and recording them at play allows for assessment of their current understanding as well as an opportunity to support their learning.
At the beginning of the year, some parents may ask about the math program, as they do not see generic math sheets coming home in the backpacks. It is therefore a good idea to take photos of the children engaged in mathematical activities as you are observing them in the classroom. These can be added to a website to communicate to your families what math learning looks like in the classroom. Or you can print them to display in the hallway, add to a student’s portfolio, or keep for a parent interview.
Recording comments during circle time is also another way to demonstrate a child’s understanding of math. Last week, when the children were considering a number line together, one student pointed out that there were kid numbers and teenage numbers. He said, “The 1-10 are like kid numbers and the 11-20 are like teenager numbers!” Another day we did a group activity when reading the book One Monday Morning by Uri Shulevitz. Using connecting cubes we represented the characters, as someone new arrived, each day of the week. When the concrete graph was finished, a student observed, “It looks like stairs going up!” By recording these comments, I am able to add them to their math profile when writing reports or planning for further learning.
The photos show what math looks like in a play-based learning environment:
This child is using 1:1 representation with counters on the light pad to represent each individual in our class photo (her idea!)
This child has sorted the animals into two groups and is then counting them as she places them on the top of the drums (her idea!)
These students are measuring volume by filling a larger container with a smaller one.
The children grouped like objects, sorted them, and displayed them on wood blocks using 1:1 representation.
There are also opportunities for children to write mathematically throughout the classroom with pencils and paper provided, as well as number lines and number displays of quantity. They use magnetic numbers to put in order on white boards and they learn to recognize their phone numbers at the carpet (after learning their first and last names), then write their phone numbers at entry during sign-in. Children enjoy songs with counting and books with sequences. Math is happening all around the classroom and children are intuitive with math. When teaching Kindergarten, it is important to see it, name it, and record it!