Pre-K Pet Store

This morning, a group of students spent a large chunk of their morning play time designing and implementing a classroom pet store. The students worked diligently to draw various pets that could be sold and decided together how much each pet should cost. It wasn’t long before they pulled out the cash register and started making money and credit cards that people could use to purchase the animals. The name of the pet store is still up for debate but lots of ideas were tossed around. The look of excitement was clearly present on each of their faces and we are anxious to see how this pet store will grow and prosper within the classroom.

The Money Machine

Throughout the school day, Marie and I spend a significant amount of time observing the students’ play. We write anecdotes about what the students are playing and sometimes even the conversations they have with one another. This helps us learn more about the students’ personalities, how they navigate friendships and conflict, and where their interests lie. Once the students have started to get to know one another, you may start to see trends in their play. We then take those trends and find ways to infuse them into our classroom so that we may broaden their understanding and of course implement a ton of learning along the way.

In the past week, we have noticed the students have become more and more interested in money and how it is used, so we decided that we needed a bank. The students started writing lots of numbers on paper for dollars and cutting out little, tiny coins to fill up the cash register. We even voted on a name for the bank. After much consideration and many great ideas (“The Dollar Store” being my favorite) they came up with “The Beautiful Bank”.

Yesterday, we started talking about how you get money from the bank. Many of the students had differing ideas. Some students said that you have to pay for the money, while others said the people at the bank just give it to you. One child said that you have to get money from the “money machine” but wasn’t really sure what that might look like. Several students said it needed a screen and  buttons and a place for the money to come out. We decided that we should make a design for the money machine before we try to build it. Below, you will find the students’ ideas for what they think the money machine should look like.

We are excited to see where this topic may take us next!



The Kitchen Game

Want a daily dose of mathematics in your child’s life? Add a play kitchen to your home. Ours inspired a child dubbed activity called, “The Kitchen Game.” It all began with a simple table setting. One child carefully laid out five bowls, four plates, and two cups. Thinking I would encourage him to practice some one-to-one counting, I asked, “How many people are coming to this party you are preparing?” He carefully counted plates around the table in a counter-clockwise fashion, double counting many of the same dishes. “Ten! Ten people are coming for dinner.” This taught me much about this child’s mathematical thinking and understanding of concepts such as one to one correspondence, estimating, and conservation of numbers.

P1050875A few moments later, the two chefs invited Mrs. Pless to join them for soup. Two other children noticed this new endeavor and decided help the restaurant out. In a whirlwind of cooking and flying paper, Mrs. Pless was instantly inundated with bills for services costing up to ten hundred eighty thousand. At one point a student kindly made a “pass” for Mrs. Pless so that her next meal would be free.  Needless to say, eventually Mrs. Pless ran out of “money.”

Child: We have a big collection of money.

Mrs. Forst: What if Mrs. Pless runs out of money?

Child: We make her pay. Mrs. Pless, do you have any money?

Mrs. Pless:  No, I’m broke.  You have all of my money.

Child:  You have to take it out of your bank account.

Mrs. Pless:  My bank account is empty.

Child: Too bad. You still have to pay.  [Maniacal laugh] Because we’re a bad restaurant.  No one’s going to want to come here!


I think I agree. This restaurant is a bit pricey.  However, look at all of the mathematical concepts they are sharing with us.  They already have some understanding of:

  • value
  • cost
  • banking
  • cash
  • numerals
  • quantities
  • a bill (that you have to pay)
  • a bill (a denomination of money)
  • currency
  • large numbers
  • the consequences of running an overly expensive restaurant (???)

In fact, I believe I might have encountered our next major credit card company founder.

Mrs. Forst: How much is an eggplant?

Child:  You have to pay $600 every month.  It changes.

Mrs. Forst: How long do I have to pay this?

Child:  106 days, but you have to pay everyday.

Did you see how the payments went up when I wasn’t paying attention? Classic.


Tasty Mathematics

A large collection of paper ice cream cones arrived in the math center this week. During small group time, the children have been finding ways to group them together. We’ve been recording their attribute choices to find out what the children value in their ice cream. The sorting rules they have used so far are:

  • Colors (pink, brown, white, yellow, blue, and green)
  • Cone Shape (triangle and rectangle)
  • # of Scoops (1, 2, 3,  and “a lot!”)
  • Size (big and small)

This morning, the ice cream cones were requested during choice time. After dumping them out, sorting them all, and mixing them back up, the children decided that we should use these for our dessert shop. We discussed what happens when a customer approaches the window at an ice cream shop and the role of the worker.

Child: Welcome to our shop. What ice cream do you want?
Me:  I’d like one scoop of vanilla, please.
Child: (searches through the pile to find the right one)

Searching for the right order.

Child: Here you go.
Me: I need to give you money, right?
Child: Yes.  One money.

Paying “one money” for a single scoop.

We decided to use the magnet square blocks as our cash since they were handy and easy to count. At first, all of the ice cream cones were “one money”. When I began ordering cones with eight scoops, the children caught on quickly to the need for higher costs. After negotiation, we finally decided that cones would be $1.00 per scoop. At first, they attempted to charge me $1300 for a cone with one scoop, chocolate dip, and peanuts, but we found out that the pricing on that item was a little too steep. Eventually, the sharp sales-children bargained for one dollar for each add-on plus the original one dollar per scoop.

Counting scoops.

Later, the counting bears were added to the mix as “Gummi Bears”.  They, too, were one dollar per bear.  We practiced more one to one correspondence by placing each bear on a “money magnet” to make sure we had the right amount of payment for a handful of bears.

Isn’t it exciting when the children grab an idea and run with it?

The Mall at Pre-K

It all started with the Pet Store.  Once we began printing our own money and creating price tags, the shopping idea snowballed.  While I was working in the dramatic play area, purposefully placing price tags on puppies, Mrs. Pless was observing a completely unrelated (so we thought) scenario in the block area.  Two girls at Blocks were setting up the large blocks as tables and placing random containers on each one.  There was a potion table, a rock table, and a seashell table.  Then the girls began discussing the sale of these items.  Aha!

We hadn’t realized that the children on the other side of the room were paying attention to our Pet Shop.  However, it seems they were inspired to begin a store on their own.  Then, without warning, a telephone salesman appeared.  He was carrying lots of phones and wanted help making an iPhone.  He found the perfect shelf for his wares and began to sell them in earnest. Later, at lunch, I asked a small group what they thought of all of our stores.  One child commented that we were making a Mall.

Thus, our next Morning Message posed the question, “What kind of store might be in a mall?”  We had answers such as Build-a-Bear, a pretzel store, a ring store, a jewelery store, a shoe store, and a toy store.  One practical student even suggested a food store. We discussed the meaning of “customer” and “cashier” to help them flesh out their scenario language.  They’ve also tried their hand at copying money as seen through a magnifying lens and writing checks to pay for purchases.  They haven’t asked for an ATM or Check-card, yet, but I’m sure that will come.