One in a Million!

We got a new work – the Hierarchical Material. For all you non Montessori trained teachers out there, this is an incredibly cool math material.  And when I say cool, I mean first-grade-boys-say-AWESOME! kind of cool.

When we start talking numbers we call a material that represents one of anything a unit.  A single golden bead is a unit bead.  When we start working with places and place holders, we color code it.  Anything that’s a one is green, tens are blue, hundreds are red, and when you get to a thousand you go back to green.  Get the picture?

Well the Hierarchical Material takes it to a whole new level.  I got to watch Miss Shelby give the introductory lesson.  With a small group (the majority of which was first grade boys – which is why I know about the above classification of cool), Miss Shelby introduced first the elements they already knew: the green unit, the blue ten bar, the red hundred square, and green thousand cube. Then came the new blue ten thousand bar.  And that elicited the first whole group exclamation of, “COOL!”  And then the hundred thousand square.  Same exclamation but louder.  And then – da da daa! The million cube!!! Suddenly COOL became AWESOME!

Once you see it, it’s easy to think, “well, that was a cool one-time lesson!” But then you start to think about other applications.  Big numbers are hard to fathom. When you talk about the population of a country, the millions just seem like “a whole lotta people.”  But now we have this great tool that actually helps us envision what a million really is.  For instance, Miss Shelby discussed that at the Seahawks parade, there were 700,000 people.  After the lesson, the students had a much more concrete idea to match to that number.

As she dismissed the students, they each got to place the unit in the million cube, eliciting, as you can imagine, even more exclamations.  Keep an eye out for a math night and you might get a chance to do the same!