Numeracy Throughout the Day

Below is an example of how numeracy can be developed through the inquiry model:

Big Idea: Students are developing a conceptual understanding about numbers.

Background: The FDL-K classroom had been inquiring about numbers in their environment. The students had been discovering numbers in their environment (classroom and around the school). During this inquiry, the students had been exposed to multiple opportunities to explore with numbers and most are able to read numbers up to at least ten.

Based on their observations, they decided to provide opportunities to extend the children’s thinking/understanding about numbers by going on a community walk. During the community walk, the educators introduced new vocabulary, like investigate and compare, and challenged and responded to the students’ thinking about what they knew about numbers.

This particular walk involved walking to the post office to mail letters to a classmate who had just recently moved away. Before leaving for their excursion, the educators asked the students if they noticed any numbers on the envelope. They engaged in a brief whole group discussion about the purpose of the numbers on the envelope and the educators asked the students to notice the numbers on the houses and buildings in the community as they passed by them today.earlynumeracya

Inquiry Question: Why do we need numbers on houses and buildings?

As the class walked to the post office, the students had discussions with each other about the numbers they were noticing on the houses. A student pointed at her house and stated that she lived in house number two hundred and fifteen. A student shared his disagreement with her and said the number was two one five. The students collaboratively solved the problem about this student’s house number. The student who that lived at this house stated that her parents have taught her that she lives in house number two hundred and fifteen, so she must be right. Another child added that she, too, has heard of numbers in the hundreds. She said that she could even count to one hundred, so two hundred and fifteen must be right. The students continued to orally engage in a discussion with each other and agreed they should keep walking down the street and explore the other numbers on the houses. The educators facilitated their learning by using mathematical language as the students were trying to problem –solve the house numbers together. They asked questions like: “What number will come next?, Is there a number missing ?, Which number is bigger?, How do you know?, How can counting up to ten help us figure out what comes next?, Do you see a pattern?…” The educators took pictures of houses and buildings’ numbers that the children noticed along their walk.

The educators then shared with the students that they were looking for the post office and the building’s number was 395. They asked “How will we use the numbers on the houses to help us know if we are getting closer to the post office?” While the students were engaging in conversation, the educators were observing and gaining insights about their students’ knowledge of numbers.

The FDK-K team later engaged in the reflection process to consider other mathematical connections that were being made, along with other connections across other program areas.They identified that once they had extended the students’ understanding about the use of large numbers in the hundreds, a small group of students were able to identify what number would come next. They looked at the specific expectations from the program document and “uncovered” that this small group of students were demonstrating a solid understanding of the counting concept of stable order.

Later, the FDEL-K team printed the photos and set them out in a large open area. Many students then engaged in a self-directed activity where they sorted the pictures based on a variety of rules. One of the educators engaged in the sorting activity, encouraging and challenging them about their understandings. One sorting rule that was discovered was about the sequential order; even though the houses/buildings were not actually beside each other on the street, they wanted to make sure that the number that came next was in the correct order.   So they rearranged the pictures of the houses to be numerically sequential.


Later, during a sharing time, the educators invited a few students to share their findings about the house/building numbers and they engaged in a discussion about what is the purpose of numbers onhouses and buildings. The class co-created a chart, listing the reasons numbers were important to have on buildings and houses.

The educators left the list up and the pictures of the houses, to celebrate the learning of the students. Leaving these items posted in the room, not only celebrated the learning, but also provided future opportunities for the children to engage in conversations with each other about their findings and share their understanding of numbers.

As the observation cycle continues, analysis of the students new learning may lead to other inquiries that involve:

  • finding, sorting and comparing, shapes in their environment
  • identifying patterns in their environment
  • collecting and making representations of their data
  • investigation of non-standard measuring devices
  • building three dimensional structures

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