This is a continuation of my Attributes and Sorting unit. You can see the introduction here.
I am lucky enough to have a class set of attribute blocks. They are great because they can be sorted 4 different ways: by color, size, shape and thickness.
The kids record the different ways they sorted in their notebooks with either pictures or words. During mathematician's chair, I point out journals that were well-organized and clearly showed how the blocks were sorted.
While the kids are busy sorting, I walk around and take lots of anecdotal notes. This is an excellent opportunity for me to see who can sort the blocks quickly and in multiple ways. I also take time to talk with the kids about their thinking. I get so much more information about them this way than with a formal assessment.
With this problem, students get a chance to apply their sorting skills to an actual "problem." I divide the kids up into groups of 3-4 and give them each a set of cookies and 4 paper plates. (I prepare the cookies ahead of time by coloring and cutting them out. I laminate them and use them from year to year).
The challenge is to sort the cookies so that each plate will have 3 cookies on it.
Is it by color? No...
Is it by size? No...
Is it by shape? Yes!
We do not record anything in our notebooks for this problem. During mathematician's chair, we simply discuss the strategies we used to solve the problem.
Here is the cookie problem if you want to try it:
And here is a similar problem I send home for families to try together:
It's another lonely day for our problem-solving notebooks. We will not get them out today. But we are still problem solving! Remember --problem solving is about the process, not the product!
The kids love making attribute trains. We use the mixed-up math manipulatives from last week. Start by putting one manipulative down. The next manipulative in the train must share some attribute with the first one...
Here, I could choose another button, or something else that is red...
I chose the button. Now, I can choose another button, or something else that is blue...
I chose the button, Now, I could choose yet another button, or something else that is green...
I chose a green cube. Now I could choose another cube, or something else that is green. And so on and so on...
At first, the kids might just make long runs of manipulatives that are the same color and then change to a new color without any common attribute to link the 2 colors. Instead of just showing them their mistake, question them until they figure it out themselves. ("How is this green button connected to this blue cube?")
But remember--there is no wrong answer as long as the students can justify their "link." They might say "The blue button and green cube are connected because they both have holes."
At first, I just let the students practice building long trains. But once they become competent at that, we make it a little harder by turning it into a game. Each player starts off with 10 random manipulatives. Player #1 puts down 1 manipulative. Player #2 puts down a manipulative that shares an attribute. If they do not have one, they must close their eyes and draw another manipulative from the tub. If they can make a match, they put it down. If they cannot, the next player gets to go. Play continues until someone runs put of manipulatives!
There is a lot of strategic thinking in this game. Let's say a player has a choice between putting down a yellow cube or a yellow button. He sees that the next player has a blue cube, but nothing that would match the yellow button. He can make the strategic move to put down the yellow button and force the next player to draw. So even though it is a game, and the math notebooks are tucked away for the day, there is still excellent problem-solving going on!
In order to introduce Venn Diagrams, I sit the children in a big circle on the floor and get out 2 hula hoops. At first, I DO NOT overlap the hula hoops. I simply place them next to each other. I tell the children that we are going to put green things in one "circle," or group, and fruit manipulatives in the other. I hand manipulatives to several children to place in the correct group.
After we have placed 5 or 6 manipulatives in the correct group, I give a green apple to one of the kids. They will usually stick it in one of the circles with great confidence. And almost always, somebody else will immediately object.It is green, it goes in the green group. NO--it is an apple, it goes in the fruit group. And almost always, some brilliant kid will suggest that we overlap the circles so that the green apple can be in both groups at once. But, if nobody does suggest that, you can question and guide them in that direction. "Boy--I sure wish we could figure out a way that this green apple could be in both circles at one time!" They'll figure it out!
After we have placed even more manipulatives, including green apples, in the Venn Diagram correctly, I give somebody a manipulative that is neither green or a fruit. Here is another dilemma--where should we put the purple butterfly? It can't go in the green group, and it can't go in the fruit group, but it has to go somewhere! Again, somebody will figure out that you can put it outside the diagram.
This is a great problem-solving activity in itself, but you can follow up by having the kids do a Venn Diagram in their notebooks. Here, I had them sort colored heart, star and happy face stickers into a Venn Diagram.
We end our Attributes and Sorting Unit with a special treat--a Snack Mix Sort!
I make a tasty mix that has all sorts of snacks--different types, colors and sizes! Here's what I put in my snack mix:
- mini m&m's (you can get these at the checkout area of stores)
- big twisty pretzels
- mini twisty pretzels
- pretzel sticks
- rainbow Goldfish
- pretzel Goldfish
- chocolate chips
- mini chocolate chips
As you can see the kids have many options for sorting. I have them sort into 2 groups, for example:
- m&m's/not m&m's
- pretzels/not pretzels
- green/not green
- salty/not salty
- chocolate/not chocolate
- fish/not fish
And many more!
If you want a record in the problem-solving notebook, you can use this:
And finally...the kids get to eat their manipulatives!
And with that--we are DONE with attributes and sorting (but we will, of course, revisit it during he course of the year.