Friday, July 22, 2011

Ten Flashing Fireflies

"What do we see in the summer night?
Ten flashing fireflies burning bright!
Catch the one twinkling there
Like a star.
One flashing firefly in our jar."

One of my favorite childhood memories is sitting on my grandmother's porch at dusk waiting for the fireflies. Some nights all of the cousins would happily run around and try to catch them other nights we would lazily watch as in unison they seemed to float into the tree tops.

Ten Flashing Fireflies by Philemon Sturges beautifully depicts this summer ritual in an imaginative counting book that is the story of a brother and sister catching and counting fireflies then releasing them back into the night.

Teaching Tip
Counting seems such a simple concept from our adult perspective, but for the young child learning to count can be a daunting task. For starters they must learn the number names and the counting sequence, then it gets more complicated with concepts such as cardinality (knowing that the last number said identifies the total number of objects in a group) and stability (knowing that rearranging the position of objects in a group does not change the cardinality). To help youngsters master these complex mathematical ideas we must give them many opportunities to count. Reading books such as Ten Flashing Fireflies can help. Luckily, children often like books read to them over and over again, so each time we read with them we can ask questions that help them learn to count. First, have them count along with the characters. Then, ask them to predict what comes next. For example, when the children have three fireflies in their jar then catch one more ask how many fireflies are now in the jar. Have objects available such as beans, pennies or some other small item and have children use them to represent the fireflies. They can add a bean to a jar (or pile) each time another firefly is captured. After reading they can count the objects again and again.

What other ideas might you have for using Ten Flashing Fireflies to teach basic counting concepts?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Welcome ISI Participants

Today I enjoyed a delightful morning with the Illuminations Summer Institute participants talking about my favorite topics: children, mathematics and literature. Welcome to those of you who have found your way to my blog following the workshop.

During the session I mentioned that my favorite source for guidance and inspiration about the integration of math and literature are David and Phyllis Whitin. They co-authored New Visions for Linking Literature and Mathematics. It and the two titles David co-authored with Sandra Wilde (Read Any Good Math Lately?: Children's Books for Mathematical Learning. K-6 and It's the Story that Counts:More Children's Books for Mathematical Learning) are fantastic resources. In my humble opinion the books are "must-haves" for every teacher's resource library.

In New Visions, the Whitins lay out a 4-part criteria that serve as a guide when selecting good math-related books. They believe the literature should demonstrate:

1. Mathematical integrity
2. Potential for Varied Response
3. An Aesthetic Dimension and
4. Ethnic, Gender and Cultural Inclusiveness

There are literally thousands of pieces of children's literature to sift through before you find the gems that make good resources for the elementary math classroom. This simple criteria serves as a great tool for identifying great books.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Favorite books? Advice?

Happy Saturday everyone! Welcome to all the new folks who have recently found their way to my bookshelf. Thank you for the e-mails that let me know you are enjoying your browsing. I welcome your comments, you can leave them here or write to me at bethsbookshelf[at]aol[dot]com

I would actually like to hear from you on something specific--this weekend I am preparing for a workshop that I'll give Monday morning to a small group of teachers who will be developing lessons for the Illuminations site. I am always eager for an opportunity to talk about children's literature and mathematics. As always, I have already gathered far more books than I will be able to share during the two-hour session. Help me edit myself down so I focus in on the best of the best. When someone asks for suggestions on great book for teaching math concepts what are the top titles in your list? Do you have any advice as far as what makes one book better than another to use during your math lessons?

Today I'll leave you with a few sources for teaching ideas:

The Wonderful World of Mathematics: A Critically Annotated List of Children's Books in Mathematics is the first teaching resource for math related children's literature that I bought for my personal collection. Now in it's second edition, this book is analyzes the content of more than 550 titles. Chapters organize the books by math topic.

Hand's on Math and Literature with Math Start is a fantastic new series written by Don Balka and Richard Callan that is packed with great teaching activities and reproducibles that extend the mathematics found in Stuart Murphy's Math Start series. Of course Murphy's titles can always be counted on to engage children in math concepts. Now this series by Balka and Callan help you extend the investigations with more hands-on activity ideas that explore the math concepts with more depth.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Who sank the boat?

Mr Grumphy's Outing by John Burningham and Pamela Allen's Who Sank the Boat? provide the perfect excuse to splash around in a cool tub of water on a hot July afternoon. In both stories the characters pile into the boats until they reach maximum capacity and ultimately sink the boat. As each new character is introduced children can make predictions of what will happen next. After reading the book children can investigate the sinking scenario as described below.

Teaching Tip

A lot of math and science can be explored with this activity. Give each child or small group a square sheet of aluminum foil (6" x 6") and ask them to shape the foil into a boat. Then children then place identical objects (marbles or bottle caps or pennies or paper clips etc.) into their boats until the boat sinks. The goal is to place the most objects into the boat before it sinks.

A detailed lesson plan for the foil boat activity can be found here. Extend the lesson by having different students use different objects then chart the results. Which objects needs the fewest to sink the boat? The most?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Patriotic Math

Like everyone else I am taking a long-weekend to celebrate the anniversary of America's independence. In the meantime, here is a source for patriotic math activities.