I recently had the pleasure of co-teaching another one of Graham Fletcher's 3-Act math tasks ("Share the Love") with one of my Kinder colleagues, Michele von Richter, giving me a chance to refresh my Kindergarten skills, model open math inquiry in Kindergarten and do some more work around language supports in primary math instruction, because while we traditionally think of math as all numbers, there is a lot of language in mathematics that can become a barrier for mathematics students down the line if we do not support that language instruction early on.
In our district, we've been transitioning to a PLC culture and our focus this year has been on learning targets, how to write them and how to engage students with the targets. So to open our lesson, we started with a learning target. Reading the learning target was a good opportunity for students to practice reading math language, so I pointed to each word while Mrs. von Richter had students choral read the target with her. Then, we broke down the word "strategies" to make sure students understood what we were referring to. Our learning target was also helpful in making sure that the Kindergartners understood their final goal for this 3-Act, without taking away from the open middle (i.e. various paths to finding the answer) aspect of the task.
As I do with each 3-Act, I played the Act 1 video all the way through one time just to hook the kids in the task, and then played the video one more time, this time asking the students to pay attention to what they notice or observe. In order to ensure that students understood the meaning of "notice" or "observe", I sketched an icon for observe on our notice/wonder chart and used a TPR strategy (total physical response), pointing to my eyes each time I told them that they were going to make observations, then defined the word notice before pressing play on the video that second time. In order to support students' responses, I also provided them with speaking stems before our share out. We read each stem through together, whole class, and then asked for students to share out their notices.
Once we'd set up the problem ("If they share the bag, how many M&Ms will each girl get?"), our Act 2 (solving the problem) became a 2-parter. First, we had the students work on figuring out how many M&Ms were in the bag all together. Again, we used TPR to support academic vocabulary, holding our two hands open at our sides and then bringing them together and interlacing our fingers to represent parts to whole while saying the words "all together".
Typically, the next step is to make an estimate before working on the problem. I decided to have students estimate the number of M&Ms in the bag rather than estimate the number each girl would get (since the whole to parts/division aspect of the task was a bit more advanced and I wasn't sure what background students had with estimating). The estimation was a big challenging for some, even though, I discovered, they already do estimation tasks in class. Looking back, I wish I had brought in an actual Peanut M&Ms bag so students could see the size of the bag and the size of one M&M before asking them to make their estimations. Even so, the task provided good insight into each students' current understanding of numbers & their values, as many guessed pretty reasonably while some made guesses like 100 or 1000.
Next, it was time to figure out the actual number of M&Ms in the bag and Mrs. von Richter chose to display the graph depicting how many of each color M&M were in the bag, as she wanted her students to practice their addition skills. It also became a great opportunity for the Kindergartners to practice reading color words, and it was exciting to see the way that Mrs. von Richter used sign language to support students' reading. As we pointed to each color word on the chart, students used both the colors on the graph and the signing that they'd learned previously to remember, or decode, the color word. As a whole group we'd point to each bar on the graph, then point to the word, then say the word while signing it. The combination of kinesthetic, visual and textual clues provided students multiple access points to the language needed for this task.
We brainstormed some "strategies" whole class, and then students got started adding up all the M&Ms. It was exciting to see the different paths students took to total up the candy! While some Kindergartners decided to draw circles to represent each M&M, others redrew the graph making each bar look more like unifix cubes stacked together, while others jumped right into an addition algorithm. As is typical with 3-Act Math, the embedded differentiation of an open task allowed those students who were comfortable working on their own were able to move quickly through the task, giving Mrs. von Richter and I time to support others who needed extra guidance. Anyone that finished totaling the M&Ms accurately was then asked to move forward to determine (and prove) how many each girl would get if they shared the bag evenly... basically a sorting activity, but, also an extension opportunity to introduce division strategies (we didn't actually use the word division here, but rather, prompted students to visually represent their sort in ways that are very similar to early visual representations of division).