THREE PLANTS: How a Group of PreK Children Researched and Reimagined What Math Can Be

I love open and authentic collaboration with anyone. I call it an IPJ!

IPJ = Intellectual Purpose Jam

This is different from typical brainstorming in that there is not written agenda. There may be some overall goals wanting to be met, at some time, yet with an IPJ the most important outcome is to ignite curiosity, momentum and the future opportunity for concrete collaboration. Recently I was  visiting an early childhood classroom and as I walked in the children were gathered in a circle on the rug.

There were three small cups in the middle of the rug, each with a small plant in each. Each plant was a different size.

The teacher saw me and was about to have the children put the plants away, to get ready for my storytelling, and I asked,

“Can I play with all of you? I’d like to know more about your plants!”

What transpired was powerful. The children continued taking turns measuring each plant with a ruler. As they did, they explored, through conversation, the ideas of math related to how many inches the plants were in height above the dirt and how many inches we thought the roots were under the dirt. Yep… we were exploring positive and negative integers with 4 and 5 year olds.

We often think of math as the understanding, usage and manipulation of numbers. This is limiting. Certainly, there is an importance for understanding the fundamentals of numbers, and why not do this in a contextual manner which brings the numbers to life.

More importantly, organic and authentic contextual learning opens the doors of both critical thinking and creative thinking.

More importantly than any of that is that we can help our youngest generation learn HOW to think. A natural byproduct is the learner learning how to reimagine math and better yet..

They will learn how to reimagine anything!

Look for those contextual moments Embrace them Ask great questions!