Waldorf Second Grade: Learning Place Value Through Apple Picking

Place Value in Second Grade

In the autumn of second grade, we visited an apple orchard to introduce the base ten number system and place value. After we picked the apples, I asked students to count all of the apples that we had collected. At first, they began counting apples one at a time so I asked them if there was a better way to keep track of the count. A student offered the idea that we could create piles of apples–each pile with the same number of apples. We discussed how many apples should go into each pile which led us to review all the different counting strategies we had learned in first grade. Students quickly remembered that counting by fives was easy, but counting by tens was even easier. We decided this might be the quickest way to keep track of a large group of items. We put all the apples in piles of ten with the remaining apples representing the ‘”ones” place. We were laughing as we imagined how long it would have taken us to count the apples one at a time and marveled at how quickly we could count them with our new “system.” We also talked about how awkward it might be to count the apples in groups of threes! (In case you’re interested, we picked 129 apples!)

The next day at school we began a series of drawings representing what we did at the orchard, and what would make sense if we had had a lot more apples to count. We wrote the following in our Main Lesson Book: At Russell Orchards, we picked 129 apples. It was easiest to count the apples when they were in groups of 10s. We could place 10 bags of 10 apples into a basket, for a total of 100 apples. The farmer could put 10 baskets of apples into a crate for a total of 1,000 apples. The truck carries 10 crates of apples for a total of 10,000 apples! We drew pictures to go with our ideas. As you can see from the drawings, this concept was recapitulated in various engaging and colorful ways. There were many other activities we did with manipulatives–the favorite was bringing in 100 objects each, on the hundredth day of school. The students laid their objects against the same wall of the classroom, end to end. We made guesses about whose line would be longest or shortest (beginning of estimation work.) They brought in Legos, paper clips, pennies, playing cards, puzzle pieces, and beans, to name a few.

By Ana Coffey, Third Grade Teacher in 2017

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