Today, I taught my class how to play a card game with pennies and nickels. It is a game that is part of our math program and one that often proves difficult for many first graders this time of year. Each player turns over a card with pictures of pennies and nickels on it. The players then count the money on their card and state the amount of money they have. Then the two students decide which of them has the most money and the one with the most cents takes both cards. For those of you who are older, it is the game of war but more politically correct.
I chose my student helpers to demonstrate how to play this game. When the game started one student was able to count the money with accuracy while the other student struggled. I helped the struggling student count the money for the first half dozen turns of the cards. The student who was less proficient was winning each round and as he won each round his eyes lit up, sparkled, and then shined. All of a sudden, he was counting the money all by himself! I stopped offering help as he counted the nickels by fives and then changed his counting to accommodate the pennies.
The entire class witnessed this student’s transformation as he struggled, tried, struggled, tried, and then met with success. His eyes and smile said it all. We felt his positive energy and cheered for him and his partner as she gracefully lost the game and applauded his success. I could not have asked for a better lesson in what perseverance looks like than what we all got to experience during that math lesson.