As a part of our schedule in our inclusive pod, we begin each session with a group meeting where we review the day’s message, talk about the date, and review our plans for the day. At the end of this meeting I give each grade level a math challenge based on what we are learning. Right now, the first graders are working on identifying coins, so we’ve been counting coins. The third graders have to count a mix of change, tell me the amount and also identify how much more money they need until they get to one dollar. The first graders have to count one group of coins (pennies, nickels, dimes – not mixed) and tell me how much there is.
On Saturday morning the assignment was for the first graders to count four nickels and tell us how many cents they had. The first step, of course, to counting nickels, is to identify how much a nickel is worth. Now, when you are in first grade and learning the names of coins it can be hard to keep up with the name and the value – they are all relatively small, almost all the same color, have dead white men on them that all look slightly the same. It comes with repetition and practice, but rarely does a child automatically know it. And since we so rarely use coins anymore the challenge for first graders in 2020 is even harder (the national coin shortage isn’t helping matters!) Anyway, I taught first grade for years and I expect this to take a bit of repetition. So when I asked the group “How much is a nickel worth, 5 or 10 cents?” and held out the numbers 5 and 10 for Joey to choose from, I wasn’t surprised when I heard a first grade voice say “10” while Joey hit the number 5. The incorrect first grader starred at Joey and I couldn’t help but feel a bit vindicated for Joey. It was awesome to see him be correct while a bright, typically developing child was still working on the concept. While he often knows the correct answer, because his device is difficult to use, it can take time to answer a question. When the group is impatient someone inevitably whispers the correct answer before Joey can answer. Yet not today. Joey was correct first.
Of course, we didn’t dwell on it, but did note that Joey has been working hard on his coins and that learning coins takes practice. And while Joey has been working hard on them, I wasn’t surprised that he remembered it so quickly. Joey often seems to have a strong memory for these facts, and although it is not easy for him to orally tell us what he knows, he often is able to show it through selecting answers and gesturing.
It was a great reminder to all of us – especially the other children – that Joey is a first grader just like them, not just learning the same information and working on the same concepts, but achieving at these concepts as well.