Tobin Times: Math Morning

Friday, January 30th 2015

A couple times a year the parents are invited into my kids’ classrooms to observe some curriculum in action.  This day was MATH MORNING.  And if somehow (like us) you weren’t the beneficiary of a Montessori Education, it is quite something.  Everything starts out with *tangible* (3-dimensional) materials.  Here is a *tiny* taste

Using the Golden Bead materials, Gavin prepares to add 3,348 [can you see 3 blocks of thousand, 3 squares of hundred, 4 strings of ten and 8 units of 1 on the top (right) of his mat?] to 4,762 [likewise 4 blocks of thousand, 7 squares of hundred, 6 strings of ten and 2 Golden Beads -somehow I cannot write this without hearing the tune to 12 Days of Christmas].

Golden Bead Material

3,348 + 4,762 using Golden Bead Materials

3,348 + 4,762

Starting with the ONES units (or “Ones Column”), he adds up the beads: 8+2 = 10.  You can’t have a two-digit number in a single column, so he exchanges the ten ONES beads for a string of ten, and puts that in the “Tens Column.”

3,348 + 4,762

In the TENS column, he will now have 4 + 6 + 1 strings of TEN; that’s 11.  Now he should exchange 10 of them for a HUNDRED (which is a square), and leave the leftover one string of TEN in it’s original column (the “Tens Column”).  Observing this now, I see that didn’t happen.  (Must have counted ten when there were actually 11.)

Problem Solved - kinda!

Problem Solving

3,348 + 4,762

Unwittingly moving on, he would now have 3 + 7 + 1 in HUNDREDS, which is also 11.  Again, he exchanges 10 HUNDREDS for a single THOUSAND (which is a cube), leaving one square of HUNDRED in it’s place, (the “Hundreds Column”).

3,348 + 4,762

Looking at the THOUSAND cubes, he’s got 3 + 4 + 1 of them.  That’s “eight thousand.”

You can clearly see on the mat he has 8 Thousands and 1 Hundred.  Had he not dropped that extra ten there would be a string of ten in the Tens Column, and still no “Ones” in the One Column.  So Gavin’s answer to the problem was 8,100.




To be honest he was rushed because by the time he got all his materials organized and his emotions and opinions under control and his focus finally oriented on actually tackling a problem, it was about time to clean up.  (Yes welcome to the world of my son’s challenges with Executive Functioning and Focus.)  His teacher kindly allowed him to continue demonstrating the work to me.  And apparently I missed the error in calculation too.

The good thing is that his process was sound, and his command of the materials seemed good.  I don’t know where this falls within the Montessori expectations of a 1st Grader, but I’m pretty certain *I* wasn’t performing 4-digit addition when I was in First Grade!  (Meanwhile his interest and mastery of this complicated compound word game was shown to me by his teacher, and his verbal acuity persists unabated.)


In ClaraJane’s classroom, she is a three-year old “First Year” student (and I know I wasn’t doing math at that age).  She spent the first half of the allotted time sitting in the “Waiting Chair,” waiting her turn to have *snack,*  beside herself with excitement to have me in class.  (Priceless.)  She then commenced to enjoy said snack.  I did get to observe some other students work, and also check in with teacher about ClaraJane’s progress.  Turns out we could be enforcing some more challenging work choices for her at home as well, go figure.  By the time she was done with snack it was -surprise!- time to clean up too.

ClaraJane's Snack

ClaraJane’s Snack

So, we counted the items in her snack.

The results?  “ClaraJane ate *4* carrots, *3* pita chips and *1* scoop of hummus.”

Or as she put it, “One, two, three, four.  And one, two, three, four!”

(Growth Mindset, growth mindset.  We’re learning!  We’re learning!)






About circuskitchen

performing artist, mom, wife, daughter, sister, aunt, niece... just a regular extraordinary person
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