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a whole lot is a BIG number

We were in the Pacific Northwest earlier in the month to celebrate my nephew’s third birthday.  I was in charge of after-nap snacks.  The birthday boy wanted pretzels, excellent choice!!  So, being the good aunt, I asked him how many pretzels he wanted.  His response: a whole lot.  So, I put 5 pretzels into the bowl, confident that the amount I had dumped into his blue bowl would be sufficient.

Upon examination of the amount of pretzels in his bowl, Brady informed me that I had only given him a lot, not a whole lot, and that he needed more.
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So, to further our conversation–in the spirit of Christopher Danielson’s wonderful blog, Talking Math With Your Kids–I added a few pretzels at a time.  I wanted to get a sense of how Brady was thinking about quantity and to see how accurate my prediction of whole lot was!!  Each time I put in 2 or 3 pretzels, I asked, “Is this a whole lot?,” and each time, Brady’s answer was a resounding no!!

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So those of you with little ones are thinking–of course he wants you to fill the bowl!!

We fit 11 or 12 pretzels in the bowl.  If I had really pushed it, there was room for another 5 or 6 pretzels in the bowl.  But, Brady was thrilled when the bowl was full of pretzels.  So, now the interesting part of this…the mathematical thinking behind the understanding of the quantity:  a whole lot.

Would Brady be content to have 5 or 6 pretzels be a whole lot if we used a smaller-sized container? Would he need more than 11 or 12 pretzels to be a whole lot if we had used a larger bowl for his snack?  Is the relationship of the quantity a whole lot related to the size of the bowl?  How critical a component is the size of the objects?  What is the relationship of the size of the snack items to the size of the bowl?

Guess I will need to visit again soon and be in charge of snack to find out how Brady’s thinking moves through these ideas and to sneak in a few bowls of pretzels (and a snowball fight) with Brady and his brothers.

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