Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Teaching Math: A Video Library, K-4

All Sorts of Buttons

Video Overview

Students listen to the story The Button Box (Dutton Children1s Books, 1990) by Margarette S. Reid and ask about vocabulary they do not understand. After the story is finished, students are given buttons to explore. Working with partners, students sort their buttons. As the children are sorting, they are asked about their sorting techniques. Then they record their sorting on graph paper. The students1 skills of classification - observing likenesses and differences - are being developed as students realize that objects can be looked at in a number of ways. This awareness of attributes allows students to develop a sense of pattern and regularity. It also helps students develop geometric ideas by identifying characteristics of shapes. At the end of the lesson, the groups of kindergarten students report their results to the class. As students share their results, they are asked to explain the reasons behind what they did.

Topics for Discussion

The following areas provide a focus for discussion after you view the video. You may want to customize these areas or focus on your own discussion ideas.

Sorting and Classifying Materials

  1. After reading the story, Ms. Gayles gave the children time to explore the buttons before directing them to sort the buttons. Why do you think she did this? What might have happened if she had not given them time to explore?

  2. Why did the teacher let the students decide for themselves how to sort the buttons? Describe the different ways the students sorted their buttons.

  3. Ms. Gayles wanted the students to work together as a group to sort the buttons. How might she have encouraged cooperation in the groups?

  4. What is the rationale for having students sort materials? What other subject areas, both in and out of mathematics, emphasize the importance of sorting and classification? How are sorting and classifying necessary in figuring out patterns?

  5. Describe the results of the students1 recordings. Did they clearly communicate their sortings? Were the students able to use their recordings to describe their various button sortings?

  6. Identify the value and purpose of asking students to record their sortings on the graph paper. What is the role of recording in learning mathematics?

Connecting Literature and Mathematics

  1. Ms. Gayles began the lesson by reading a story to the students. How did the literature provide a context for this lesson? Cite the benefits of using literature for learning mathematics. What are some other examples of literature that could be used to provide a context for sorting and classifying?

  2. What mathematics emerged from the story? What other mathematical ideas could be developed?

  3. Give examples of ways in which the story stimulated the students1 thinking and affected their button sorting.

  4. List other tasks related to the story used in this lesson that could be posed for student investigation.


Buttons, Buttons: What Else Can You Do with Buttons?

Do some brainstorming. What other activities related to buttons would you plan for your students? What mathematical connections would you emphasize in these related activities? What mathematics might emerge?

Science Connections

Consider the role of sorting and classifying in science. When students sort and classify materials, are they doing mathematics or science? Come up with other sorting and classifying activities that help students see the relationship between mathematics and science. See if you can develop activities that link to each science content area.


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