Math is …

On our last class of the academic year, we asked nineteen 5-10 year olds (majority 6-7 yo) to continue the sentence “Math is…” in as many ways as they could come up with.  The results are in!  But first, a few comments, before they get revealed.

1) The kids were encouraged to write both how they felt about math and what they thought math is all about.

2) When I compiled a list of everything that at least one kid wrote (naturally, there was much repetition), I was pleasantly surprised by the length of the list (in particular, it was much longer than the one we made when the kids were asked a similar question at the beginning of the year, which can be found here).

3) In the list below, I adjusted words for spelling and also combined noun and verb forms of the same word (e.g. addition and adding), but not synonyms.  The numbers next to the words/phrases indicate how many kids wrote them down.

And now:

Math is … (According to the Golden Key Russian School)

Fun (12)
Numbers (10)
Multiplication (9)
Cool (7)
Counting (6)
Adding (6)
Subracting (6)
Awesome (4)
Learning (4)
Interesting (4)
Times (4)
Division (4)
Education (3)
Symmetry (3)
Fractions (3)
Shapes (3)
Plus/Minus (3)
Equals (3)
Boring (2)
Calculation (2)
Skip counting (2)
Time (2)
Hard (2)
Great
Challenging
Patterns
Rocks
Good
Story Problems
Word Problems
Solving Problems
Sides
Faces
Corners
Edges
Terrific
Puzzles
Fractal
Array
Funny
Functions
Coding
Money
Slicing
Groups
Reading
Games
Tricky
Exciting
Calculator
Beat the calculator
Counting in different ways
Helps succeed in life

Probably the two things that surprised me the most were the frequency of “multiplication” and the scarcity of “games”; I thought that we played games way more often than we discussed multiplication, and most of the kids haven’t encountered multiplication in school yet. Perhaps “multiplication” is just a very cool word 🙂 .  What surprised you the most?

And finally, so that you don’t think that I came up with those words and numbers all on my own, here is the evidence!

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About aofradkin

I enjoy thinking about presenting mathematical concepts to young children in exciting and engaging ways.
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13 Responses to Math is …

  1. Annabelle says:

    Very interesting. The good news is how many find it fun!

    What are your top three math games to play with kids aged 6?

    Like

  2. Tania says:

    “Array” and “fractal” from a kid who can barely spell is precious (A. is complaining behind my shoulder he does not know what a fractal is:))), and sure great evidence of your success – Tania T

    Like

  3. bovetsky says:

    What makes this list outstanding is a great variety of answers, and the absolute majority of them consists of real mathematical terms. Frequency of the words fun, cool etc. shows that kids enjoy your lessons. When you ask a similar question in regular school, I would guess, not many answers will include fun, cool, or something similar.

    Like

    • aofradkin says:

      As I mentioned in the post, I was very happy to see the variety as well. I was also very pleased that almost every kid had some positive emotion on his/her list.

      Like

  4. Allison says:

    I really like the “beat the calculator” and “helps succeed in life” responses!

    Like

    • aofradkin says:

      I like those a lot too; they were written by a 1st and 3rd grader, respectively. I do wonder what the first grader is trying to “beat the calculator” at 🙂

      Like

      • bovetsky says:

        Any simple operation. It takes his fellow students more time to push calculator’s buttons than calculate a sum or product of two one-digit numbers in their heads.

        Like

  5. Joshua says:

    I wonder if this list shows the level of abstraction they are able to consciously recognize right now? In that case, it is primarily their overall impression (fun) and a description of concrete skills (adding). I had something similar when I asked 5th grade students for feedback in a programming class. They usually focused on the specific task we had been attacking, rather than ask questions or make comments about the structure we had been exploring.

    Like

    • aofradkin says:

      So now I’m curious how this list would be different if we asked high school students or adults? You think that the focus would be different?

      Like

      • On second thought, maybe not. I came up with a list of words I thought a more mature student might list (or we might hope they would list) and then I went back to your post. Turns out that many of them were already there, for example, problem solving and patterns, but I hadn’t noticed that on first reading. Some others where I think the spirit is still on your list:
        – modeling
        – finding connections between ideas
        – conjectures/asking questions
        – extending to new situations

        Like

  6. David says:

    Math is awesome sauce!!

    Like

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