Building Blocks and Building Confidence in the Math Classroom
When children make cross-curricular connections in Math they not only solidify their current understanding, they also build their confidence in learning Math. Recently, in my grade 1/2 French Immersion Math class, we were exploring the concept of “difference” and how that relates to subtraction and number sense.
We began looking at the concept of difference by revisiting our bar graphs that we created in the previous months, namely looking at “the most” and looking at “the least” and then comparing both sets in order to analyse “by how much more or less.” In another lesson, I had given the students 100 coloured blocks in a container. Then I had them remove 31 and asked them “How many are left?” This allows them to visualize the difference after removing the 31 blocks.
As the students became more comfortable with the concept of difference, a group of boys decided to make trains using the linking cubes. Given their competitive nature, they challenged themselves to create the longest trains and compare the two in order to find the difference. As I observed the boys working, I was hearing mathematical language in French such as “as long as,” “as short as,” and statements such as, “If I take away (number of cubes) we would have a match, and that means there is no difference, because they are equal.” As they were making connections with the concept of difference, they also tapped into their knowledge of group counting (by 10) as a more effective strategy to count the number of cubes in the train as the trains got longer.
When children make cross-curricular connections in Math they not only solidify their current understanding, they also build their confidence in learning Math.
The learning continued as the boys made tracks using the interlocking cubes, raced cars and calculated the distance travelled. They were excited to pursue the next investigation. It was insightful to observe how they were making cross-curricular connections to the relation between subtraction and addition, measurement, data management and even physics and stability. I realize that my original intent of the lesson was only supposed to last a few Math periods and I never imagined it would grow into such a rich project. I understand that learning does not always have to take a linear approach, through sequential lessons of a given concept in Math. Rather, as students build their understanding they consolidate their learning through meaningful contexts which give rise to richer learning through a cross-curricular and inquiry approach.
Georgia Petinarelis is a French Immersion teacher with the Toronto District School Board. She has been teaching for 11 years. She completed a Master’s degree in Education at York University on inquiry-based learning and building oral communication in French. Georgia considers herself a teacher-researcher and enjoys experimenting with various learning approaches such as inquiry-based learning and gendered learning. She is currently one of the math leads at her school and has a passion for developing students’ confidence and excitement in math through engaging activities and lessons.