August 27, 2014

Learning How to Sort with Math Manipulatives

At the beginning of the year it is always difficult to get your classroom structure down and introduce students to centers. I first begin my math center time by letting students explore the math manipulatives. This is a little hard for me because I'm crazy organized and letting the students dump everything out and explore is a bit hard. :) 

We had just began discussing sorting, so I got out many of our math tubs, gave the students a few different sorting sheets, and let them go at it. Since we haven't practiced centers or gone from center to center, we just spread out around the rug. I even let the students decide who to work with, EEK!  Working with their friends made them more social and more comfortable sharing ideas. 

As students sorted and got to become acquainted with the math manipulatives, I walked around and observed. Many students seemed to sort by color, which is typical in Kindergarten.

Look at the boy in the white who was sorting by size!

The girl on the left is sorting by shapes. I don't think you can tell in the photo, but she used 3 red triangles to make a trapezoid.  This is some higher level thinking at the beginning of the year! Not surprisingly, she ended up being one of my higher students.

More sorting by color and shapes. 

Did they really have to dump them?!? LOL! This boy in white is sorting his squares by size, while the other boys are sorting by color.

After awhile of using the sorting sheets, I took the papers so away so students could get some free time exploring. I wanted to see what they would do with the manipulatives when not given any kind of guidance. Given the freedom, I observed students playing make believe with the teddy bears and money, building towers and even patterns with the linking cubes, making bigger shapes out of the pattern blocks, etc. It was very interesting to watch my students use match concepts they hadn't even been taught yet, but rather discovered naturally.

What did I learn from letting them explore?

  • students asked more questions about the manipulatives
  • students were more creative 
  • students learned the names of the manipulatives and ways to use them
  • students learned how to work, clean up, and rotate to another center
  • I could see who had high level thinking skills 
  • I could see who worked well and listened even when they were with friends
  • I saw that sorting by color was mastered by all students, so we could move on to other concepts

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