I gave Jacob a bag of shells to count. He said it would take a year to count all 7 billion shells in the bag. I told him he could organize the shells to help him.
He decided to organize the shells by the look of the shell. I let him do it and just said, "that is one way to do it." He quickly lost count and started over numerous times before telling me he could not do it wil us in the room, we were too distracting. I suggested he organize them in another way to count. He couldn't possible think of any other ways to organize the shells and was getting frustrated so I stepped in. I suggested we put them all together again. He did not like that idea so we kept them in 3 piles. I suggested we do one pile at a time and put them in small groups of 10. Explaining it would be easy to count by 10s. (He does know how to count by 10s. He liked this and put all 3 piles of shells into groups of ten by himself. He ran into a problem when we did not have for a pile of ten. I suggested we put the left overs in a pile to make them in piles of 10. He again, did not like mixing the different shells. So I suggested we count all the one style. I let him count the 10s but jumped in to count the extra as a model for him. 23. He continued to do that for all 3 piles of groups of 10. At the end I asked, "now how do we know the number of shells altogether?" He thought for a while and didn't have ideas. I suggested we keep the groups of ten but all the leftovers together so we can easily and quickly find the total as he is not doing double digit addition yet. When he hears fast and easy, he is on board. We had 72 shells.
This activity was a great way to explore numbers and counting. There was a lot of letting him fail to find the answer. That can be hard sometimes but needs to happen if you want to raise thinkers. We also were able to talk about his complaint at the beginning of the activity. He suggested there were 7 billion shells. We talked about how 72 is a lot but not 7 billion! And we talked about how to easily count a large number of things.
This was a great activity to put Mr. know-it-All 5 year old in his place and show him he still was learning!