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Sort and Classify Math and Science Activities
This article by Gail Gerdemann of Oregon State University shows teachers of K-2 classes how to use rocks, leaves, and other natural objects (instead of commercial math manipulatives) to teach children science and mathematics skills. The author contends that natural objects—which children love collecting—have more complex physical properties than commercial products and come in a variety of sizes to order and measure. She explains how to gather the collection from the schoolyard—leaves in the fall, seeds in the spring, and rocks and twigs all year round—and how to have children make some observations and then sort and classify by the items’ attributes. Next, she describes a variety of games that go from simple to more complex. For example, a “Same and Different” activity asks students, working in pairs, to choose two objects from the collection and name the ways in which they are different and similar, using precise words that describe properties. Toward the more advanced end of the spectrum, “Guess My Series” asks the teacher to choose an attribute and place five rocks in a line using a secret plan (in order by size, hardness, or color). Students try to deduce the attribute and then put another rock into the “line-up.” The author also provides assessment tasks for sorting and classifying and measuring. The resource file below contains a link to a PowerPoint with photographs illustrating the games described in this article.
Program Director: Daniel Arp, Ph.D.
Award Years: 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006
Summary: Oregon State University is a public research university in Corvallis, Oregon. Its HHMI-funded educational initiatives include:
- The Science Education Partnerships program, a K-12 science outreach effort that improves science and math education for teachers throughout the state and also provides alternative ways for children and families to make science an interesting part of family activities;
- Undergraduate summer research programs with formalized mentoring of students, a peer-reviewed undergraduate research journal, and research opportunities for students at Pacific Northwest schools and schools populated with traditionally underrepresented groups in science; and
- The SMILE STARS (Study Techniques, Academics, and Research Skills) program, which offers an eight-week intensive summer bridge program for selected high school graduates before their first year at OSU.