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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.

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!!


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.

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. Nicole #

    We are driving in the car and just read your “Brady blog” to all… and Brady happens to be eating pretzels and let Daddy know he has a “whole lot”! Thanks for including the little math learners from the Northwest in your blog!!!

    January 1, 2014
  2. Michelle Caroccia #

    My three year old nephew was so excited tonight. He successfully used a knife to cut a chicken strip. He cried out to me in joy, “Look Mimi I cut it in half!” Ok beside the fact he calls me Mimi, the funny part was that he cut the strip into “almost half but more like thirds” and I grabbed my camera because I thought of you. He’s three and kinda gets fractions are parts without anyone really teaching him. My sister’s been working on counting (and a adding) but fractions!?!? I guess kids probably pick up “half” from adults or tv right? It just made me chuckle.

    Happy New Year!

    Michelle ________________________________________

    January 6, 2014
    • Three year olds are so brilliant!! Conversations with kids are one of the amazing parts of life. Thank you for sharing one of yours. Happy New Year!

      January 6, 2014
  3. Eric #

    What a great reasoning question! I am going to have to explore this with my students…
    Thanks for sharing.

    January 17, 2014
    • I am really interested in what conversations your exploration and questions brings about.

      January 17, 2014

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