23 March 2012

fun with fractions

our approach to at-home learning is to follow cosmo's lead. when he shows interest in something, we offer supporting resources and encouragement. when his interest fades, or moves on to something else, so do we.
playing "allowance" first thing, on christmas day. sorting coins for Mother Hubbard's Cupboard
money seems to be a sustained interest for cosmo. he has been fond of coins since age 3. At 5 he had his first coin sorter. it didn't last 6 months, but he did get a new one for his 6th birthday. he now wants a coin counting jar, and will not let up about the "my little ATM" he once saw in a catalog. he enjoys coin collecting, especially series, like the state quarters and the national parks quarters. he has a susan b. anthony and a saquajwia dollar, a pouch full of various foreign coins, some fifty cent pieces and a buffalo nickel. he has learned the value of all the coins in circulation, and has learned how to make change, mostly through playing monopoly, life, and a game called allowance. he now gets an allowance, and has opened his own back account.
it was through his interest in money that he first became aware of fractions. i'm not sure exactly how this went, i think he was asking carl about half dollars, and quarters, and somehow the idea of 4ths came up. carl drew a quick pie chart to illustrate, and cosmo made a few on his own. he clearly grasped the concept. the next time we went to learning treasures, he asked for one of the fraction materials they have available. we compared the bar type, and the pie type, and settled on the pie ones, even though they don't have the fraction numbers printed on them.
he enjoyed them as objects from the moment we brought them home, as did the rest of the family.
a week or so later, the south carolina primary was happening, and carl and i, the political junkies that we are, were tuning in. since cosmo likes games and charts (and always wants to know who’s winning), we thought he might enjoy keeping track of the returns as they came in. i showed him a way that he could graph the percentages as the night went on, and we took a look at the latest polls online. i made a pie chart of those percentages while cosmo was building a lego pyramid. when he saw my pie chart, he wanted to make one too. i showed him how i made it using the fraction pieces, and tracing. i helped him figure out how to combine some of the pieces to make a certain percentage, and then i walked away to watch the primary coverage. 

later i noticed he had completed a chart, using a combination of numbers from the poll, and from the early returns. his chart is more vibrant and interesting to look at than mine, and he completely got the legend part.

his grasp of basic math concepts continues to amaze me. much like the way he started reading on his own before age 4, he seems to pick up math as if he were born knowing it (this was not the case for his mother, i assure you). he gets the basic idea of multiplication, and can do some on his own. last week he blew me away with how quickly he could calculate scrabble scores “okay, that’s 7, 9, 10… triple word score, so that’s 30 points.” his spelling is not quite good enough for full participation in scrabble, but he teams up with one of us, and keeps score. fun for the whole family!