potato maths

In early June I spent an hour with class 1 students planting seed potatoes. Students needed to estimate how many new potatoes would be generated when planting 9 seed  potatoes in each large container.  Students used stones to create groups to help them determine a total sum. Most students where limited to counting by 1’s, 5’s and 10’s.


I underestimated the time needed to describe and break down the components of the learning activity. Having done all teaching to date with teens the overall class dynamic and my expectations where completely underestimated. The rapore the class teacher had with her class demonstrated how understanding you class members can make such a huge difference in the overall group dynamic.

I returned to harvest and count the potatoes in December 2011. The 4 months since the first class students had developed and enhanced their mathematical understanding with students being able to group and count in 2’s and  some in 4’s.


Questions I askedand student responses

“how do you remember numbers?”

“I put it in my head”           “I use my fingers”           “it is a little more than my age”


How many potatoes do you think we will harvest?

“millions”      “hundreds”        “more than 9”


Ordering largest to smallest

Little potatoes ordered

About Sarah

Currently teaching in Collingwood College as a science and outdoor education high school teacher. After a huge 2020 I have decided to change direction and later in the year plan to undertake a coding bootcamp... After training to be a teacher via a Diploma of Education and Masters in Chemistry via thesis on the effects of bushfire on receiving water bodies (Gippsland 2002-2003) at Monash University Clayton Campus, Melbourne, Australia I have been teaching in Secondary schools in Melbourne including Sophia Mundi Steiner School . I have been an active member of the Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA), represented Australia at the world Canoe Polo Championships, am keen on other sports: netball, basketball and road cycling. I am a keen gardener and owner of chickens as well as a German Shorthaired Pointer and mother to four children. Life is busy but I would not have it any other way!
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