The game is called Build What I Have. One person describes a design they are making with their rods and others try and reproduce that design by listening closely. One of the main points in this game is to introduce and/or reinforce math vocabulary.
The suggested age range for this activity is 2nd-8th grade; even though the kid is a young six I knew we could still get something out of it. I decided that, to start, I would capitalize on concepts she already knew (parallel, points, edges, top, bottom, sides, etc.) and introduce some new ideas (perpendicular, horizontal, vertical).
The rest we'd muddle through somehow, I figured, but she did surprise me by knowing her lefts and rights. "We've been doing that in ballet class, Mama," she stated mater-of-factly. Fabulous.
To start, we hid our designs from each other.
Here is what I find fascinating:
My daughter's designs were much simpler today than normal and I think it might be because she had to describe what she was doing as she built them. There is an equivalent experience that I find to be true in my work with 4th and 5th graders as well. Often times I tell those kids that they are doing complex mathematics in their bodies and grade-level math on the page; they understand more math in their bodies than they can communicate through words or symbols. Sometimes it is impossible for them to notate their Jump Patterns because they are just too complex for their current stage of symbolic mastery.
Often kids can do, know, and understand way more than they can communicate symbolically. If we only judge a kid by her output on paper, we're not really seeing the whole child. There are many ways represent comprehension: we need to listen and watch carefully for other indications of understanding as well.
It wasn't too long ago when I brought the word 'parallel' into my daughter's universe. It will be exciting to observe her body and conversations show me she's 'got' the concepts of perpendicular, horizontal and vertical.