Another reason I provide rocks in the classroom is that they are so versatile. The children find a myriad of ways to use them for their own purposes.
Children simply line them up. On the left, a child balanced the rocks on the lip of the table as if to outline the table. On the right, the child lined the rocks along the line created by the transition between the carpet and the tile.
Children use rocks to fill containers. On the left, they filled a jello mold with rocks. The children had to find the right sizes to fill the mold. On the right, they filled up a cardboard tube to overflowing.
Children use rocks to fill big containers, too. The children filled a five-gallon bucket with rocks and then tried to lift it.
Children try to fit rocks into holes. On the left, the child wanted to see if the rock fit into the clear plastic tube. On the right, the child wanted to see if a rock would fit through the hole in the top of the bottle.
Children not only try to fit rocks into holes, they also experiment with what fits into holes in rocks. One child tried to fit her fingers into a hole she found in a rock. She first put her little finger into the hole in the rock and said: "Even the little finger fits."
Finger holes from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.
Though I am trying to make a case for bringing rocks into the classroom, children need an opportunity to explore rocks outside, too. When we give children the time and the space to explore rocks---both inside and outside---their explorations look a lot like math.
I have purposely left out counting or numbers with rocks. Yes, I am a heretic. Too often we only think of math in terms of numeracy for young children. Given the opportunity, children will find ways to use rocks that lay a concrete foundation for multiple and complex concepts in the area of math learning.
Dare I say it: rock math rocks!