Counting Minibeasts

Children designing their own methods of counting

England, 4-5 year olds

Children aged 4 and 5 were given the problem of working out how to sort, count and record the number of plastic minibeasts in a bucket. Some children worked in pairs, others individually in a carpeted area of the classroom. The children were given time to generate their own strategies for counting the minibeasts and plenty of space to set out and represent sorting and counting processes in different ways. They were able to leave their different minibeasts in different areas of the carpet without having to clear their working space each time they finished counting each type. This allowed children to learn from each others’ approaches, and for the teacher to examine everyone’s work at any point during the activity. Children’s imagination and creative thinking skills were demonstrated in the variety of approaches adopted. For example, one child counted the spiders and flies by placing them carefully in rows of five (as shown in the photograph), whereas another pair of children placed all the flies in a single half-circle row (although they later started adopting the 5 in a row formation for their caterpillars and woodlice). Children were encouraged to discuss and reflect on their different strategies with their talk partners at the end of the lesson. The child whose work is shown was overheard saying to his talking partner “When you’re lining them up ... ‘cause you know when you’re lining them up, and there’s only one ... I don’t know where to put it”. Looking at his work he has four rows of five dragonflies (and of spiders) with one remaining dragonfly being placed on the end of a row. He seemed to be grappling with how to deal with remainders. 

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