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"Context Matters" Activity

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This activity provides participants with an opportunity to explore children’s development in operations as children solve problems that arise through play and interactions throughout the day.

by Linda M. Platas

Activity for Teacher Educators

This activity begins with participants reading the Context Matters Vignette. This can be assigned as homework prior to the session, or in class before starting the activity. This activity can be done with or without the accompanying worksheet and PowerPoint slide. 

Group Activity and Share 

Have students get into small groups. The worksheet and PowerPoint lead the participants in an exploration of both Makayla’s and Jaden’s understanding of operations, as well as their own understanding of children’s use of operations, including addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division in the classroom setting. Have the students collectively examine and solve the problems on the worksheet or PowerPoint in their groups and then share out two take-away messages from the group work.

Materials Needed

  • Context Matters Vignette
  • Operating in Context worksheet (download below)
  • Operating in Context PowerPoint (download below)
  • Ten teddy bear counters (or other counters) for each group
Teacher Responses and Where to Take Them 
There are two purposes to this activity: (1) to support participants’ understanding that operations vary in the level of difficulty, and that this does not necessarily depend on what type of operation or operations are involved (e.g., whether it is addition or multiplication); and (2) to highlight that children’s real world experiences in the classroom are filled with opportunities to explore operations. While it is important to support mathematical development through intentional teaching, it is also important to understand what children are learning as they solve problems in the classroom with mathematics.
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