Kindergarten Teacher

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Math Challenge For Young Kids: Starting With The Answer

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This is cross posted at PBS Kids Math Lab

One of the hardest parts about teaching grouping, adding and decomposing numbers to young kids is giving them an opportunity to discover the “tricks” on their own. Since adults know and see how numbers go together, the instinct is to teach them what we know. It is often difficult to step back and let the learning happen. One of my favorite ways to encourage this process is by starting with the answer. For our youngest learners, this can be done with simple storytelling. At the beginning of the year, my Kindergarten class often “starts with the answer” and I always try to incorporate a student’s interest into the story. Example: Tracy loves alpacas, so I tell the class the answer is 6 alpacas… what is the problem? The kids then use their fingers or manipulatives to work out the answer. These problems encourage higher order thinking and more importantly allow for many different answers. Afterwards the kids share. They hear how other kids are thinking about math, and kids teaching kids is always powerful. A free app I use frequently for this activity is Educreations, a virtual whiteboard that allows you to record the whiteboard screen and audio as the kids work out the problem. A low-tech option, called build that number, uses playing cards and a “magic number.” PBS Kids also has some great online math games that give kids practice building to an answer in addition. Curious George Train Station is for younger kids and Cyberchase Spaceship Power-Up focuses on helping kids decompose the number 10.

Regardless if your child or students are just starting to learn about adding or if they are addition experts, I hope “starting with the answer” will be a fun way to encourage higher order thinking and learning through discovery this summer.

3 Responses to Math Challenge For Young Kids: Starting With The Answer

  1. kylepearce says:

    This reminds me of an approach used by Marian Small. Great presenter and excellent educator. Love the idea and will be trying something similar in my high school class, starting with the answer in September.

  2. Aly says:

    I took a class this summer all about Math Talks. This same idea was spoken loud and proud. You give students an answer,or a problem, and let them figure it out without really giving them much. There are certain strategies that often have to be in place for particular problems, but often they can just go for it. After kids have had time to work and think, they then come back to the group and as a class you all discuss strategies that friends used. Do you agree/disagree? Why? Would you do it another way? Great stuff!

  3. Thanks for sharing! I was thinking that this would work great with the nearpod app for a 1:1 ipad room. This would allow the class to have some space to work yet still be connected with each other and easily see what the other teams did.

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