So school started…

I wish I would have gotten some photos before 7:15 on day 1!  Before the milk from breakfast was spilt, before the random batches of school supplies started rolling in, and before papers/scissors/markers/broken pencils littered nearly every surface in the room.

But then, all of a sudden, eager eyes (and little, grabby hands) were here!  And something amazing started happening…

We.  Started.  Learning.

Messy, unorganized, loud learning.

Now, maybe unorganized isn’t fair to say after the hours I put in making sure everything was ready.  I wanted math to happen, right away, and I wanted to show my students that math tools were accessible and ready for them.

So, that is the picture I am choosing to share.

My picture is my proof that even though the floor is covered in goldfish, scraps of paper, rocks from the playground, and possibly a few playing cards, before they came I THOUGHT, and THOUGHT HARD about what I wanted them to see.

I wanted them to see ways to make math happen.

And I’ll leave you with a story!

After teaching my first graders the “special” way that we were going to use our fingers to represent numbers, we sang The Ants Go Marching and used our fingers to act the lyrics out.  Six year olds LOVE singing, and acting, and challenges.  So, I gave the this challenge: in partners, use something to help you act out the song.

Most of the class drove straight to what the were the most familiar with – connecting cubes.  A few first graders went for tiles, a small number went for tens frame paddles, no one (heart breaking!) was familiar with the Rekenreks – and one student picked up a deck of cards.

I wandered the room, listening to the sweet singing and discussions that were happening – and I hung around the partner pair using the cards and tens frame.  Partner 1 was very confused, 1 card for 4 ants?  How?  That couldn’t be right!

So I stepped in and asked, “Can you tell me what you are thinking?”

Partner 2 paused, looked at cards, now concerned that they were in fact wrong, and said, “This card has 4 hearts.  That’s a number 4.”
I smiled, thanked the student for their explanation and confirmed that there were four hearts, and they were singing about four ants, so that thinking made sense to me.

Then it got messy – and so exciting!  Students were going for dice, dominoes, even clocks (which unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to hear the thinking behind), yet still no one brave enough to try a Rekenreks (soon first graders, very soon!) – but my students were wanting to explore the math tools that they saw.  And they could because they were easily located and ready to be used.

Learning is messy.  Six year olds are very messy.

It’s my job to organize what they need to be successful.

I’m good with that.



  1. nancyqsmith · September 1, 2015

    I LOVE your ideas!!!!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • jessicacheyney · September 1, 2015

      You are very kind, but I can’t claim the idea – but I can thank Stepping Stones!


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