Kindergarten: Numberless Problems

Last week, the kindergarten students solved a problem about Jack and his building blocks. It went something like this:

Jack was building with blocks. He used 4 blocks to build a wall and 2 blocks to build a bridge. How many blocks did Jack use altogether?  

The teachers posed the problem without the question, did a notice/wonder, and then gave the students time to answer how many blocks altogether. We looked at this student work in our planning for their upcoming lesson.

We were curious to see what the students would do without the numbers in the problem, so we planned for a numberless story problem during last week’s Learning Lab. Three kindergarten teachers and I had a chance to be in the same room to see it in action today.

Nicole, the teacher, posed the following story to her students:

Susie is building with blocks. She used some blocks to build a wall. She used some blocks to build a bridge. 

She asked the students what they noticed/wondered and the very first notice was there were no numbers to tell us how many blocks, awesome. They did some wondering about how many blocks she used and compared this story to Jack’s building from last week.

We planned to have the students choose the number of blocks they wanted Susie to use in her building and then find how many she used altogether. Their number choices were so interesting and left me wondering when students begin to explain the usefulness of 10? I know some of them know 10 is a great number to add after the activity today, but I am wondering the questions to ask to make it clear to them because they just “know it.”

Here were some examples of their work…so much cooler than 4+2 in Jack’s problem!

6 thoughts on “Kindergarten: Numberless Problems

  1. howardat58

    Nice, but maybe the activity was somewhat limited by their previous one where they had the numbers and were told what was wanted. This could be tried out before giving the numbers, and you might get a bigger range of “noticing” and of “Questions”, such as “Did everyone use more blocks for the wall?” “How many more?”. Since one of your examples shows the kid counting on this shouldn’t be a problem. But with words, not with the subtraction sign. That comes later.
    Since this is K I am wondering why they are not using actual blocks for this. !!!~


    1. howardat58

      A bit more (oh no !).
      With the obsession of the CCSSM with “operations” and their “properties” it is easy to overlook the “description” of what is being done and the “act of performing the operation. 9oo general, I know).
      Description: “How many altogether ?” or “What is the total..?” “which used more ?”
      Action: “add”, “subtract” “multiply by”
      Without this kids will often take the numbers out of a word problem and apply the same action as they did last time, or the action they know how to perform.
      (just thinking aloud)


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  5. Jenn

    So exciting to see the success that kindergarten students are having with numberless word problems and notice/wonder!

    Have you used numberless word problems and notice/wonder with multi-step word problems? If so, do you have any suggestions or modifications to share? Thanks for sharing your insight 🙂



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