## Tuesday, 10 March 2015

### Sort it Out

I have taken an interest in how children sort things.

I want to know what things they use to organise groups of objects and how they can show this grouping and explain what they have done.

So we got out some stuff - every classroom should have bucket loads of stuff for this very purpose.

I have been collecting milk tops for a while now - they are all pretty colours and just end up in the bin. They are an ideal maths resource.

Step 1 was to discuss a question that could be answered by sorting out the lids. This was harder than I thought it would be. I was assuming that the idea of comparing one group to another or showing which group was the biggest would be pretty obvious - but it wasn't.

And here is where I think I started to influence the thinking a bit too much. Anyway, more of that later.

Once sorted, I wasn't happy. How can you tell which group is biggest?

So they lined them up - but I STILL wasn't happy. Can you put them side by side to use length as the basis for comparison?

Now, is that really fair? They don't all start at the same base line. Don't you need to line them up?

This looks better - to me at least. But have I been influencing the process too much? In getting the kids to "do it my way" have I gone beyond gentle "challenging and provoking" to a very un-subtle "influencing and directing"? Have I forced my adult thinking onto their own creative ideas? And if I have, was it a good thing or a bad thing?

Certainly there were a few mathematical concepts that we needed to address in comparing groups - but because I stepped in, I may have killed the opportunity for the kids to discover them for themselves.

So I tried to step back a bit and let the kids do their own sorting to show difference between groups. Here's how they did it - much more creative than my "line them up neatly" strategy.

So hard to sort! So many different categories!
You almost need a different group for every marble.

Right! The counters make a number to show how many there are.

Just enjoying the shapes...

Note to self - step back a bit. The photographer doesn't need to be in the picture...