I have been reading a lot lately about having kids “notice and wonder” to start off a math task. This seemed to be a nice extension from the Number Talks that I have been doing lately, so I was looking for an opportunity to visit some classes to try it out. Then, last week, a friend of mine posted this picture to her Facebook page…

… and I knew I had to use it! There are sooo many awesome things to notice and wonder about in this picture!

So, I “invited” myself into some classrooms at my school. I was especially curious about how kids at different grades would respond similarly/differently to this photo. I visited a Grade 1/2, a Grade 2/3 and a Grade 3 class with the same activity. First, I showed the whole class the picture and gave them a few minutes to observe and think about what they noticed and wondered. Then, I collected all their ideas onto the whiteboards at the front. I was so impressed! I love how curious kids are at this age, and I love the variety of things that they noticed and wondered about:

I love how many things the Grade 3’s wondered about before they wondered how many eggs there were! I think my favourite “noticing” is “*it looks like they just came out of a chicken!” *And I love how much real-world knowledge is being talked about here – in addition to the math. I thought it was so interesting to hear the variety of background knowledge that the kids had about chickens, farms, eggs, and where their food comes from. They were all very enthralled by that tiny egg in the middle (which, by the way, had no yolk according to my “farmer” friend).

Next, we did some “math” with the picture. I gave all the kids a black and white copy of the picture in a sheet protector and a dry erase marker to use. I challenged them to figure out how many eggs were in the picture *WITHOUT *counting one-by-one.

Here are some samples from the 1/2 class…

And a few from the 2/3 class…

With the Grade 2/3’s we ended up discussing that 36 is a really interesting number because there are a lot of ways that you can group the eggs and still get to 36. We talked about the word factor and how we could use it to describe the way we grouped the eggs (ie. my picture shows 9 groups of 4 – 9 and 4 are factors of 36).

And the Grade 3’s:

So… after all that… what did **I** notice and wonder?

I noticed that the kids were all really engaged in this activity.

I noticed that all the students (even the lowest Grade 1/2’s) were able to meaningfully engage with this activity.

I noticed that many kids wanted to try different ways of grouping and were getting ideas to try from their neighbours.

I noticed that all the students were keen to explain their thinking.

AND… I noticed… that not ONE student in any of the classes grouped the eggs in a “traditional” array pattern. There were some kids who counted by 4’s, but none made columns of 4. And nobody thought to make rows of 9 or to turn the page and make columns of 9. This is a big ??? for me, because I would think it would be natural to group things in rows and columns, and this is where we want kids to access multiplication. So, this leaves me wondering… do the students naturally group things the way that they did because of experience using hundreds charts? What kinds of activities can we do to help them see things in arrays? Should I be “encouraging” kids to see an image like this as an array, or will that representation naturally develop over time?

So much to think about!! I love activities that make me wonder about my teaching and student learning. I will definitely be doing more noticing/wondering with kids…

If you are interested in doing activities like this one with your students, there are many more images like these available on the Number Talk Images website and I have submitted the picture from this activity there as well.