Inside a kindergarten classroom with Augustana students

Counting cookies to show number sense

After using the computer games with the kindergarteners last Tuesday, their teacher suggested using an activity with manipulatives on Thursday. This activity connected recognizing numbers to counting, which is similar to the “Count/Sort” computer game. This is a difficult connection for young students to make, as they often do not realize that a number, say 15, can mean both the written number 15, or 15 objects. Instead of having students start by counting objects before selecting the correct number from two choices, as in “Count/Sort,” Thursday’s activity had students begin by showing their number recognition skills. I worked with two students at a time, and each student selected one gingerbread cookie card from a pile, telling me what number was written on the back of the card. This was a good test of their number recognition skills without getting a hint by counting objects before identifying a number. After correctly identifying the number, each student’s task was to put that many “cookies” (which were actually colored tiles) on their individual “cookie tray” cards. The numbers on the cards were all between 10 and 20, which was slightly too challenging for the lower ability students in the class, but not challenging enough for the higher ability students. For the lower ability students, number recognition above 10 was difficult, but once they knew the correct number on the card, many were able to successfully count out that number of objects. Most of the higher ability students easily completed this part of the activity, so I moved on to teaching them to count on to or take away from their previous number of “cookies.” A couple of students had success learning this concept the previous week, and many of the higher ability students did Thursday as well. Working with the kindergarteners on this activity shows how such a simple activity can teach several different skills to a variety of ability levels.

When working with the 1st graders early this week, I was able to use more simple manipulatives to connect three number sense skills in a similar way to the kindergarten “counting cookies” activity. Their teacher has a box full of different-colored rubber teddy bears, which we used for this activity. I started by writing a number from 5 up to 35 on a sheet of paper, starting with smaller numbers and gradually increasing with each new number, but decreasing the number at times. The students would first tell me the number I had written, testing number recognition, then count out that many teddy bears. Counting the teddy bears showed their abilities to count on and take away, and they finished by writing the number themselves to get more practice writing numbers. I completed this activity with two different students, and it helped me understand their number sense with these skills and showed me one student had these skills mostly mastered, while the other student still needed more work on these basic number sense skills.

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