Math Journals and Counting Collections

Monday, June 27, 2011
Three springs ago I was given a copy of an article from Teaching Children Mathematics. It was called "Counting Collections" (March 2007). (google counting collections to find the article- I would post it but I am not sure about copy rite)I was very excited and yet worried about introducing counting collections to my class. I mean, would 5 year olds sit still long enough to count to 100? How would I handle all those little pieces to count... and out of fear I set the article aside. How many times have teachers loved an idea but feared the actual "doing" part... I would guess thousands.

Even though I didn't do counting collections that school year, I passed out the idea to every teacher who would listen... and I waited. I waited to hear how they liked it or if it had worked for them. What I heard back was how successful it was. One 5 grade teacher told me that her children immediately started grouping their items into multiplication groups... that very few would sit and count. I was still perplexed at how this would work in Kindergarten...those old thoughts of millions of little pieces all over the floor gripped me with fear. But I started to notice something with this years group of children. When given legos or counting bears or any manipulative they would sort into groups, but they weren't counting the groups. Just sorting them... and it hit me (kind of like a ton of bricks actually) these babies have to GROW into counting to 100!!!

Yea, I know. You had that figured at the beginning of this post ;) I've often said I might be late but I always get to the party! So here is what I did....Counting Collections became a math journal activity. I took all kinds of things, erasers, pasta, beans, foam squares, and foam shapes I cut from the Cricut and grouped them into zip lock baggies.On each baggie I put a 2x4 label that said " Today I counted (what ever was in the baggie). I have ______ (what ever was in the baggie)". The children copied that label into their math journal and then they would count using what ever method worked for them... making a line, grouping etc. Then the children would fill in the blank with the number. Now came the fun part... recording how they counted. The children drew what they did to count. For example, if the children made a LONG line of beans then this is what they would draw and label (with the number), if a child grouped into groups of 10 then they might draw a 10 frame with dots to represent the item and label what they drew.

Just how this all worked: 
I must mention that before the children were EVER asked to work on their own we did a lot of these together! I have an elmo in my room and I LOVE it for this type of project. I can work each step with the whole class. Then we can all get out our journals and work the steps together. I start math journals VERY early in the school year. We write our numbers, number sets or answer journaling prompts. The prompts are written in word, 5 to a page, and cut apart. The kids glue them into their journals. We use a date stamp early in the year to date our pages and then move to writing the date later on. When I first introduced the counting collections I tell the kids that being able to count quickly is a skill that grown ups use all the time. We quickly count to see if everyone is finished in the bathroom or lined up from recess. We quickly count to see if we have enough bottles of water for the family when we go on a picnic. This is something that they will use forever. The baggies are limited to 10 or less at first. I found that they quickly went to 20 (and that I could model much higher numbers). The children would take their baggie and empty it onto their journal, this year we will be working on math mats thanks to Mrs. Diller!!

In over coming my personal fears, I lowered the numbers to "reasonable" to deal with. Starting out no more than 10. By the end of the year, I didn't have to give baggies. The children could take a jar of manipulative off the shelf and count as far as they could in the time allowed. The mess that I was worried about was non existent because we worked on our journals, this year it will be math mats of foam from the craft store. This set boundaries for the children. They knew to watch for "falling" pieces and how to handle picking up their pieces.  

About the journal:
On the kindergarten supply list are 2 black marble comp books. I take one to use for a math journal and the other is cut in half to be used as a word journal (more about that one later).   In the past I have used premade note pads to label the journals, but this year I am going to Avery labels to label each book. (see below)

I have fallen in love with counting collections. They are a little bit of work to set up, if you set them up in baggies with labels. But they are SO worth the time!!

1 comment

  1. I am excited to use counting collections, but still haven't used them. I collected odd little collections all summer long. No checkerboard game got thrown out without me grabbing the checkers first. But I STILL HAVEN'T GOTTEN STARTED!! Your tip of putting a label in each baggie is the thing I needed. I'll be ready to go on Monday! By the way, I thought I too should start with using the ELMO projector so I can model ideas and as a group we come up with ideas together.


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