Monday, May 21, 2018

Figuring It Out

One of the children was building with the set of transluscent connecting tubes, building a long line of tubes. He stretched them across the table, and the stood the line of tubes on its end, before putting it back down, and getting ready to walk away. 

I asked, “I wonder what would fit inside?”

He looked at me curiously, not knowing where to start. I suggested we look in the baskets of math manipulatives and see what might fit inside. He examined each basket, and selected several objects to try – a rubber car, a small plastic cat, and a counting bear. None of them fit.

I brought over a basket of art materials. He searched through it, and chose some pompoms, which to his excitement, fit inside. He pushed pompom after pompom into the tubes.

But then, the question became how to get them out?

He tried pushing them with his finger, and then with a popsicle stick. Then he tried a pipe cleaner, which easily pushed the pompoms out to the other side.

But then his attention shifted to a new question – how to make the pipe cleaners travel through the tunnel of pipes. He pushed in one after the other, lifting and angling the pipes until the pipe cleaners fell out the other side. Soon another child came over to watch, and eagerly gathered the pipe cleaners as they slid through. The pompoms were forgotten, as the children discovered this new material that fit inside, and slid through, much  more easily.

A simple prompt of “I wonder…..” sparked these series of experiments and discoveries. Building a tunnel of pipes was an easy task, one he did every day. But the right question, at the right moment, initiated his drive to search for new problems to solve, and to figure out the answers for himself.

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