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using metacognitive thinking in kindergarten math

Posted By: Virginia Stead on March 3, 2004
Dan, you would have loved my French Immersion kindergarten class. I used large enough to handle coloured beads and strips of brightly coloured plastic laces to get kids to make graphic representations of their phone numbers. They couldn't write or draw very clearly yet (ages 4 - 6), but they sure could string up those numbers.

This evolved into (permissions in order) posting individual kids' mug shots with their phone numbers neatly printed under their faces. Two students invented a quiz whereby completed phone number laces were placed on a table and players had to figure out whose lace was whose. With 8 colours of laces and 10 colours of beads, no two were even close. A big joke happened when two people used the same colour beads to represent the same number, say 3!
It was really hard for newcomers/observers to understand what was going on.

Next, a student wanted to know how to use the beads to do arithmetic. It seemed like such a natural progression so I got some coloured wooden beads (in contrast to our plastic ones) to represent operations. We voted (great graphing exercise) on which of four colours would represent adding. Can you guess? Yes, red of course. Suddenly the bell rang, and if it had been winter, half the class would have missed the school bus home. We were all completely mesmerised by the process.

Adding went like a breeze the next day, but we immediately discovered we'd forgotten to designate a wooden bead colour for "=". I had to write a key on the board now but the kids were fine with it, even the ones who weren't quite toilet trained. WIth this process, we made collections of things in the classroom and in partnerships or groups of 3 the kids made up formulae using their laces and beads. Then they had to make piles within a collection to correspond to the arithmetic statement.

Subtraction followed naturally, and we decided that negative numbers represented debt. That worked.
On the question of generalizability, the kids wanted beads they could spell with, alphabet beads, but I couldn't find any! They understood the limits of /non-generalizability of using blank beads to represent letters of the alphabet, beyond E=5, though some of the Type A's thought they could make words using A - L (10).

NOW, I'd be interested in your definition of metacognition and how you think it relates to multiple intelligence?

Virginia Stead
Ed.D. Candidate, OISE/University of Toronto
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 Critical Thinking and Life-Long Self-Learning by Bill Ellis on January 15, 2004
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