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Creating A Math Discovery Zone: Empowering Learners with Math Output

classroom design inclusion math community math workshop Apr 03, 2024

Facilitating Math Output:

Recently, I collaborated with several teachers to introduce math output and exploration time in their classrooms. This designated time allows children to independently explore math concepts using various manipulatives. It's a chance for them to express their math thinking in different ways, while teachers engage with them during the process.

Kerstyn Stewart, a kindergarten teacher, optimizes her Exploration Workshop time for math output, highlights its versatility, stating, “It allows for so much differentiation.” She guides the session with prompts like ‘What are some different ways you can make 10?’ and provides a range of materials to support their learning.

Considerations when planning:

  • What materials will support children in understanding number relationships?
  • Are there materials to support exploring numbers and spatial reasoning? (e.g., Cuisenaire rods, SUM Blocks, Numicon, etc.)
  • How will children share and document their thinking?
  • What mini-lessons can I deliver to establish independence and ensure success?

Launching Math Output:

Begin in a communal gathering place (usually a carpet) and explain to the children that they will investigate some math ideas. Co-create an anchor chart with them outlining what engaging in a math output investigation might look like, sound like, and feel like. See example contributed by Marijke Albrecht, a grade 1 and 2 teacher.

Pose guiding questions such as: What are some different ways you can make 10? What addition and subtraction strategies can you explore today? How do these materials enhance our understanding of multiplication?

Allow children to select their materials to begin the output, granting them autonomy in their choices. You might consider a gallery walk of materials as whole class, modeling out loud some of the possibilities for each of the materials.

Once they select their inspiration, if they move quickly between materials, assist them in connecting with the idea (from Daily 5) of staying in one spot throughout.

While children explore, observe their actions and take note of their interests and creations. Consider using a recording template to track observations, and if possible, document comments with photos to share with the community later.

Gather for a sharing session. Initially, focus on self-regulation by reflecting on how the session went, what they enjoyed, and what they noticed or learned. As children become more accustomed to Math Output, highlight more mathematical concepts during sharing time. Utilize photos of their learning and prompt discussions on observations and wonders.

Tips for facilitating Math Output:

  • Allow children to choose materials and representations.
  • Set clear expectations for children's and teacher's roles during this time.
  • Start with shorter time blocks initially, gradually increasing as children gain experience and build stamina.
  • Always conduct a debrief at the end of each session. Share successes, discoveries, and new learnings, and discuss how well they regulated themselves and stayed on task.
  • Possibize around your weekly schedule- when can you fit it in? During morning output time? During centers? It is a great way to start or end your days, providing choice, agency and creativity for children.

Materials to consider:

  • Snap cubes
  • Numicon
  • Cuisenaire rods
  • Different types of numbers 
  • Sum Blocks
  • A variety of loose parts
  • Blank paper for recording
  • Various recording methods: pencils, markers, stamps, paint, etc.

Math output and exploration time offers a structured, yet open ended opportunity for fostering mathematical exploration, growth in students and differentiation. Feel free to connect with me for further questions or share your own math output session photos—I'd love to celebrate the journey with you!

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