A Fruitful Math Lesson

At her upstate greenmarket stand, Farmer Ashira sells apples in rectangular wooden boxes: five red or five green. Recently, a few of her customers wanted to buy a combination of red and green apples in the same box. But how?

Fast forward to a recent morning in Room 22, a Kindergarten classroom. To begin Math Workshop, Head Teacher Katie Bowman invited her students to sit on the rug and watch a short video. Projected on the screen was Farmer Ashira, holding her apple boxes and talking to a person who looked a lot like Head Teacher Jessica Thies from one of the other Kindergarten classes. Wait! It was Ms. Thies!

Turns out, Farmer Ashira and Ms. Thies are good friends. During a visit to the farm, Ms. Thies listened to the apple dilemma and offered to help. “I have an idea! My Kindergartners are really great counters,” Ms. Thies explained in the video. Because this was such an important assignment, it was decided that all three Kindergarten classes would contribute their expertise to this very grateful apple seller.

“Is there more than one way to make green and red apple boxes?” Ms. Bowman asked her students. “How many different ways? That is your job today.”

Arriving at their chosen spots around the room, the students found baskets of red and green tiles, slips of paper with five outlined apples, crayons, sharpened pencils and a worksheet presenting this task: What are some ways Farmer Ashira can organize her apple boxes so she has green and red apples in each box?

Working with quiet concentration, the students experimented with various color configurations by moving the tiles around on top of the paper apples. When they felt ready, they illustrated their ideas on the worksheets.

Throughout, Ms. Bowman encouraged the girls to think beyond a single solution. “Remember, mathematicians are organized. In thinking about being organized, you want to find more than one way.” After a few minutes, an array of interesting possibilities filled the students’ papers. Several proudly held their worksheets up for this writer to admire. Their calculations were impressive.

“Mathematicians, find a spot on the rug!” Ms. Bowman requested, signaling the start of math discourse. After briefly discussing the apple challenge as a group, several students were invited to share their individual strategies. With the help of magnetic red and green apples on the classroom’s white board, these students bravely described their thought processes to the rest of the class, leading to more energetic conversations.

To further solidify her students’ understanding, Ms. Bowman continued to pose pointed questions, such as “If I rearrange the apples in my box, does the number change?” and “Are these two boxes the same or different?”

At the conclusion of this exciting Math Workshop, while the students were putting away their crayons, pencils and tiles, Ms. Thies arrived to pick up Room 22’s carefully calculated solutions, which she promised to deliver upstate.

Thanks to the capable mathematicians in all three Kindergartens, Farmer Ashira will now know how to organize her red and green apple boxes – and to please her customers.

Browse photos from the lesson below: