Short Book Review
Short Book Review of Franke, Kazemi, & Turrou’s (2018) Choral Counting & Counting Collections: Transforming the PreK – 5 Math Classroom.
A couple weeks ago, Dr. Chao passed around an attractive, alliterating book title which captured the image of children engaged in a hands-on counting activity. I was immediately intrigued by the term “choral,” which reminded me of my former elementary teaching days when I would have my students chant out their spelling words, punching the air or jumping up and down rhythmically which each letter.
This book resonated well with one of the major themes of our Math Methods course. Franke, Kazemi, & Turrou (2018) frame their rich activities as a means to support students in developing “strong identities as doers of mathematics” (p 4). Since the students work collaboratively, they learn to invent strategies for counting, negotiate and coordinate their counting methods, organize the display of the collection, and decide how to record their sense making. Similarly, during choral counting, the teacher publicly records how the class counts, encouraging the group to think about number patterns and sequences by inviting responses to the question, “What do you notice?” Franke et al. (2018) report teachers find that this strategy “often elicits sharing from students who ordinarily hesitate to speak up in math” leading to “help students see themselves as capable mathematicians, as valued doers of math, who have an important role to play within the mathematics classroom” (p. 12). Such an identity has been revealed with some of the activities we have been engaged in this semester with our Photovoice interviews, Twitter discussion posts, and our rehearsal teachings.
As a middle school math teacher, I wondered how the activities in this book could be extended beyond 5th grade. The authors recommend establishing a choral counting routine of approximately 15 minutes. I would consider trying this out a few times a week for 10 minutes per class, using choral counting to fortify mathematical ideas about fractions and decimals. Specifically, I am eager to have students count by mixed numbers and fractional parts such as ¾, since I still have many Pre-Algebra students resistant to fractions (they prefer to convert them to decimals). The book offers a number of examples to work on, such as counting with units of measure, for example, counting by four inches. Such experiences can help gain experience with converting between units and promote a fun learning environment that encourages “math chit chat (Franke et al., 2018, p. 10).