I love Counting Collections. As a classroom teacher, I would always have my students count everything in the classroom, differentiating based on what number set they needed. We would work on representing numbers, and we would use charts to represent groups of ten, pushing understanding of place value. We didn’t call it Counting Collections, but a similar practice. I always saw it as a great activity for a class where kids were learning to count very different number sets, since I could easily differentiate within the context of counting. But now I don’t have to write that post, since Heidi Fessenden (@heidifessenden) recently wrote the best one ever. It is a beautiful post about her work with counting collections and students with disabilities and inclusion. Read it! It is beautiful!
Her post highlights several critical features of great mathematics teaching for inclusion. First, throughout the piece, she frames her own work as a problem-solver, not as a expert, not as someone who has already figured it out. Heidi writes how difficult it has been to figure out how to include students with autism, who need additional scaffolds and support, into a general education mathematics routine. That attitude, having a problem-solver approach, is how she IS able to include all children in beautiful, collaborative learning. She tries, and if she fails, she thinks, she problem-solves, and she tries again. She provides kids with partners, and understands that both partners will learn, not just the child with the disability. Heidi incorporates collaboration, broadening the concept of learning beyond the individual. She provides scaffolds, like a visual schedule for the counting collection. I also love how she learned to not micromanage! Students with disabilities, particularly autism, are often micromanaged to within an inch of their lives. They are offered very little space to think, to grow, and to make choices. Heidi gave them space, gave them scaffolds, and let them count!