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child profile

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Every single child has the ability to understand big mathematical ideas. However, the process to go about this understand may be different for everyone. No single person thinks exactly alike and understands the same things in the same ways. Because of this, it is very crucial to allow children to work with inquiry-based tasks. These tasks allow students to gather data from an activity and then use it to come up with the own solution their own way. No answer is flat out given to them; they must use the facts to discover the solution for themselves. Because of this, inquiry-based tasks are the best way to really assess a childs mathematical understanding. This is why for my third field report, a mathematical profile of an individual child, I chose to use the Ice Cream inquiry-based problem. The Ice Cream problem is a very rich problem for multiple reasons. It requires students to take two flavors of ice cream and three toppings and figure out how many different ways the ice cream can be made. With such little instruction, students are able to do this problem in a variety of ways. It also elicits many important mathematical ideas such as creating combinations that are not order specific, showing how adding just one other possible topping creates a multiplicative effect of combinations, and showing how combinations can be applied to real-life situations that are meaningful for children. These require higher order thinking and can be solved at the discretion of the student. However, because of this, there may be many misconceptions. Some students may first look at this problem and think it is about order; they may first start out by putting the ice cream and toppings in difference sequences rather than understanding the ice

cream and toppings together create one unit. Once a student truly understands what is asked of them, they may then forget to count the ice creams without the toppings or the ice creams combined. There are many different misconceptions that may create a barrier for students to truly be able to solve the problem and get the correct answer. However, these ideas are critical in a childs development of their mathematical skills. In order to implement this task, I picked one student, Shreya, to work with. She is a 3rd grader in Miss Schroecks classroom, is a much higher-abled student, and love mathematics. To perform this task, I took her during 5th period to a small table in the front of the room where the two of us sat to work. As for the rest of the class, they were all individually editing their nonfiction stories so Shreya has a nice and quiet environment to work in. I read her the directions out loud and then allowed her to work independently. When she first began, after I read the directions, she immediately said Oh thats easy! and I was excited to see what she would do. She first simply put chocolate ice cream and matched that flavor with the three toppings and then did the same with strawberry ice cream. Shreya then turn to me an exclaimed that she was done and that there were two different combinations that could be made. I could clearly see that she was thinking she had to use each ice cream flavor and all of the toppings; she did not quite understand the different combinations she could make. To help prompt her, I said that I did not like cherries and asked if there was any way I could get ice cream without cherries. She seemed to have an epiphany and then began to write each flavor of ice cream with a combination of two different topping. She began to confuse herself a little and was paying attention to word order instead of looking at the ice cream combination as a whole. For example, she would put chocolate ice cream with hot fudge and whipped cream and then put chocolate ice cream with whipped cream and hot fudge.

After a few minutes, she realized her mistake and began erasing. She eventually finished and said there were ten different combinations (because the only topping she counted by itself was the cherry). At this point, she was still forgetting the ice cream by itself, the single topping combinations, and the combined ice cream with toppings. I continued to prompt her by telling her that sometimes I did not like toppings on my ice cream and she immediately began adding the flavors by themselves and then the mix of the two flavors. I also said that I saw she had chocolate ice cream with a cherry but not with just hot fudge, but hot fudge was my favorite. Shreya then added the ice creams with one topping and did all the topping combinations with strawberry ice cream and chocolate ice cream together. In the end, she came to the conclusion that there were twenty four ways to make ice cream. While observing Shreya through this process, I saw one important thing in particular. She seemed to come to realize there was a pattern with the toppings. All of the topping combinations that could be put on chocolate ice cream could also be put on strawberry ice cream and the mix of ice creams. I learned that she understood this concept because as she worked, she began looking back at her other combinations. She took those topping combinations that she had previously put together and began using them when working on the chocolate ice cream and strawberry ice cream together. This showed Shreya understood the pattern with these combinations and it helped her come to the correct answer in the end. While observing Shreya taught me a lot, it became much clearer when I was able to interview her. During the interview, I had asked if she ever worked with a problem like this before. She explained how she had to use clown faces and see how many combinations they could make with different eyes, noses, and mouths. This problem has the same mathematical ideas relating to combinations and grouping things together. She explained how she would first put on the eyes

and see the different noses and mouths she could pair with it. Then she would do the same for the noses and then for the mouths. Looking back at her work, I saw she used a similar strategy when working with the different flavor toppings. She always started with hot fudge and saw what she could match with that and then moved to whipped cream and then cherry. This is where I observed her having a little difficulty because she was listing combinations that were the same, just in a different order. However, I saw her catching herself and realizing the combinations were whole units, no matter what order they were in. I then asked her how she organized her combinations and her answer paralleled a more deductive approach. She described beginning with a very broad idea that the ice cream can have all the toppings it wants. Then she began to narrow it down with only two toppings, and then the ice cream by itself or with only one topping. Lastly, I asked her what would happen if I added an extra topping, such as sprinkles. Her initial response was oh no! but she followed up with explaining how she would have to do the whole thing over again and instead of starting with three toppings, she would have to start with four, then make combinations with three toppings, then with two toppings, and then with one topping. This showed that she understood that there was a pattern or order she had to do the problem in to help her keep everything straight. This interview helped me draw many different conclusions about her mathematical ability. Because of this interview and my observations, I believe Shreya really does have an understanding of the big ideas elicited by this task. She understands how to create each combination and that they are not order specific, how each topping combination becomes a pattern that can be used for each ice cream combination, and how the dynamics change when another element is added. Had I had then asked her to solve the problem with sprinkles as another topping, I believe she would have been able to solve the problem and use the patterns

from her previous work as a guide. These are all very important concepts and the fact that it is put into a real life situation that someone like Shreya may be exposed to made it fun for her. While I did get to see her current understanding of mathematics, I also looked through some of her old work to find out how she has been working throughout the school year. In regards to older work, I looked at a math assessment Shreya took back in September and another one she took again just in March. According to these assessments, Shreya has a great understanding of many different mathematical concepts. She can has a good understanding of recognizing and counting numbers, pattern recognition, understanding place values, understanding word problems, explaining her reasoning, counting money, telling time, adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing, measuring, identifying shapes, using charts and diagrams, and much more. One of the things she did well, pattern recognition, was demonstrated when she did the Ice Cream problem because she used the pattern combination of toppings with chocolate ice cream to help her figure out what topping combinations to use for strawberry ice cream and the mix of the two. Although Shreya did excel in many areas, she had some weaknesses. Because she was in 3rd grade, she did not have problems with things such as number reversals, however, she did have a weakness in comparing numbers and finding the perimeter. This seemed to be simply from a lack of understanding the material. She got none of those questions correct and simply did not know how to solve those problems. The only other errors Shreya had in her work were random errors. The mistakes she made seem to be simply because she either worked too fast or was not careful. In her September assessment, she used many inventive strategies to perform operations such as addition and subtraction. While these strategies worked, I believe she may have confused herself or forgot to finish through with how she was solving the problem. For example, in one

problem, she had to add 527 + 35. To do this, she began counting up by tens. Once she got to three tens, she stopped and put 557 as her answer. She simply forgot to add the five ones that went along with three tens. However, she did not make this mistake every time. In fact, many times she answered very similar problems correctly. Shreya is a very bright student with a love for mathematics. She is very high able and understands some very complex concepts. Through looking through her old work, current work, and by doing the Ice Cream task with her, I learned a lot about her mathematical profile. She understands many complex ideas and the ideas needed to solve the Ice Cream problem such as understanding combinations and patterns and realizing what would happen multiplicatively if there were a change in the number of toppings or ice cream. She also has a high understanding of 3rd grade mathematics and the errors she seems to make in her work are random rather than due to a misconception in operation or process. This task has allowed me to really get inside the head of how a third grader might think. I think it was very beneficial and I believe good information was gathered that could be used in the future when assessing Shreya mathematically.

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