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Making Questions Count

During the school year, my mom watches my 4 year old son. For the past several months they have been playing a card game they named “High Card”. It’s just like the traditional game “War”. Essentially— they each get half a deck of cards, turn one card over at the same time, and whoever has the highest card wins those cards for that round.

The other day when I arrived to pick him up they were playing High Card. I sat down next to them and watched a few rounds. As they both turned over their cards, my mom would enthusiastically say, “Oh you won!” or “Oh my card’s bigger!” and swipe the cards into the winner’s pile. This went on for the remainder of the game, each round lasting about two seconds before the next two cards were flipped. My teacher-brain couldn’t help but observe through the lens of the learning opportunities this game afforded, yet were being missed because

  1. each round was moving faster than a 4 year old brain can likely process.

  2. my mom was the one working the hardest; she was unintentionally doing the math thinking & telling him which card was the highest.

This reminded me not only of the importance of wait time (time for a learner to reason and reflect), but how asking children simple, intentional, questions during every day experiences like this one can maximize the opportunity to promote mathematical thinking & learning!

I once watched a video called Ever ask them what they wonder? and it completely changed the way I respond to my children’s inquiries! We know that young children ask questions incessantly as they learn to navigate the world. A slight shift in the way we respond can encourage them to think critically & make connections in the world around them. I learned that when my students or my own children ask a question, I should first ask them what they think. Doing so allows their ideas to surface & lets their curiosity guide their wondering. When children discover or develop meaning of things on their own, they are more likely to understand, remember, and build on that learning.

BEFORE when my daughter & I drove past a construction site:

My daughter (pointing): Mom, what’s that big machine over there?

Me (looking): That’s a crane. It lifts and moves heavy things.