I first learned about open-ended math centres on Taryn Bond Clegg's blog Making Good Humans. They immediately reminded me of the type of "provocations" Reggio Emilia educators set out for children and also seemed suitable for our play-based learning environment. What struck me most about this approach was the level of teacher intention balanced with the opportunity for child-led learning.
As Taryn explains: "Open-ended math centres...
Source: 'Open-Ended Math Centres', 'Making Good Humans', October 9, 2015: https://makinggoodhumans.wordpress.com/2015/10/09/open-ended-math-centers/
This seemed like a powerful idea worth trying, so I had a go. Here is a summary of my experience and some advice for those who are interested in exploring this approach:
- Intentionally select materials, but do not be attached to any particular product or outcome: I selected materials that the children were familiar with, but combined them in new ways. The materials connected to our Kindergarten learning outcomes and benchmarks, but I did not set a particular goal or learning outcome for the experience.
- Plan teacher questions: Just like we do in our PYP Planners, I brainstormed some possible teacher questions that I may pose to children during the activity. I ended up asking many more questions than are listed below, but it was helpful to have a framework and idea of possible learning directions.
Observation & Documentation:
Taking photos and scribbling notes helped me to focus my lines of questioning. They also served as helpful pieces for my assessment & interpretations after the event. When reviewing the photos I actually noticed some things that I hadn't earlier!
Reflections & Planning Next Steps:
The most important thing about observation and documentation is doing something with it! The skills, strategies, and concepts I observed students exploring were used as assessment data in terms of charting students' achievement in the context of our Kindergarten learning outcomes and benchmarks, as well as planning differentiated next steps in learning.
- tracing & copying dominoes (counting & one to one correspondence)
- matching dominoes that had the same total number of dots displayed differently (representing numbers in different ways)
- counting dots and writing the numeral (representing numbers in different ways)
- counting dots and finding matching numeral card (representing numbers in different ways)
- ordering dominoes (concept of more, less, and number order)
- combining dots on dominoes and writing addition sentences (number facts to 12, counting from 1, counting on, + and = symbols)
- placing pegs, counting, and matching to numeral card (counting, one to one correspondence, and representing numbers in different ways)
- counting holes and placing pegs up to 100 (organized counting & one to one correspondence)
- realizing that there are 10 holes in each column & row: "10 groups of 10!" (organizing large groups of objects for counting + concepts of addition & pre-multiplication)
- making colour patterns (patterning)
- forming numerals and matching them to number cards (number formation)
- designing a forest and river: "It's like in Little Red Riding Hood" (making connections to other curriculum areas)