The Stenhouse Blog

Is It Fair? - A Math Routine for Young Children

Posted by admin on May 11, 2020 2:37:11 PM

Educators of young children know that their small students are capable of having big mathematical ideas. But it can be difficult to find instruction that emphasizes the importance of making space for them to talk about, play with, and be curious about those mathematical ideas. Luckily, math educator and author Toni Cameron wrote a whole book of routines that do exactly that!

IS it fair

Toni Cameron’s new book Early Childhood Routines: Empowering Young Minds to Think introduces readers to a set of short whole-group and partner routines designed to engage young children in meaningful math thinking and build problem-solving communities. The Is it Fair? routine is one of those routines and we want to share it with you so you can practice it with your students online or in the classroom next year. Take a look!

How it works

In her book, Toni explains that “As young children play and interact throughout the day, we often hear them say things like ‘You have more blocks than I do!’ ‘I have the most pretzels’ ‘I’m taller than you.’ ‘I’m the fastest.’ All of these comparisons have implied opposites (e.g., I can only have more if you have less, or I can only be fast if someone else is slow) and come naturally to most children. Because children easily make comparisons, we may forget that the mathematical ideas underlying some of these comparisons are quite complex” (90). 

The Is it Fair? routine builds on children’s intuitive mathematical ideas by asking them to compare two children’s snacks and asking the simple question, “Is it fair?” In her book, Toni outlines a sequence of images you might use for this routine and offers tips for facilitating this routine with young children. 

Give it try

Although there are many ways to explore this routine, we have found a few types of images to be helpful in developing students’ ideas, reasoning, and mathematical language within this snack context. These four types of image are explained in Figures 5.3, 5.4, 5.5, and 5.6 below.

Download the entire excerpt here.

Fig 5.3

Fig 5.4

Fig 5.5

Fig 5.6

You can read more about the Is it Fair? routine in the Early Childhood Math Routines book as well as the companion website that includes slide decks of images to use with your students!


Early Childhood Math Routines


Download the excerpt