Ideas at Work: All sorts of mitten math

by Mary Hynes-Berry

Focus: Big Ideas of Sets and Patterns

  • Attributes can be used to sort collections into sets.
  • The same collection can be sorted in different ways.
  • Repeating patterns allow us to predict what comes next.

Olivia Trevino’s preschool class at Marsh Elementary School took advantage of all the winter weather to explore picture books about mittens. The Mitten by Jim Aylesworth and The Mitten by Alvin Tresselt are two delightful versions of the Scandinavian folk tale about a group of animals that try to squeeze into a boy’s lost mitten.

One Mitten by Kristine O’Connell George, The Mitten Tree by Candace Christiansen, and Missing Mittens by Stuart J. Murphy play with the idea that mittens come in pairs in other ways.

All these mitten stories inspired a lot of mitten math! The activities began with the children doing a binary sort. They divided their handwear into two groups: mittens and gloves. They then compared the two sets of handwear by making a bar graph to see which set was larger.

The next day the children found the same collection could be sorted in many other ways. All they had to do was to change the attributes they used. Children sorted both mittens and gloves by size, then re-sorted them based on whether or not they had stripes.

The children also used their mittens and gloves to make repeating patterns on the rug. Later, the children used paper mittens to create patterns that they could glue down.

“Starting with interesting stories and using the mittens and gloves they wear every day really engaged the students,” reflects Trevino.

Additional Links:
Mitten Theme (Pratt’s Educational Resources)

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