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A Cornucopia

by Early Math Counts

I don’t know why but I love the word “cornucopia.”  According to Merriam-Webster’s on-line dictionary, a cornucopia is,

1.  a container that is shaped like a horn and is full of fruits and flowers

2.  a great amount or source of something

3. an inexhaustible store: abundance

When I hear the word, I think of Thanksgiving centerpieces that represent all the abundance that the fall harvest has sown.



This alone, makes me think of great words that all children should be exploring.  When my kids were in early grade school, the teachers called these great words “5 dollar words” or “10 dollar words” giving them values that the children could understand.  Cornucopia is definitely a 10 dollar word.

When we think of math vocabulary, try as much as possible to introduce the basic words that children will encounter (more, less, few, many) as well as 5 dollar words that expand their vocabulary (tons, a tad, heaps, loads) and finally, 10 dollar words (abundance, scarcity, oodles, masses, multitudes, dearth, insufficiency).

Imagine a three-year-old in your program reporting to the group that she couldn’t finish setting the table because there was a “dearth of napkins.”  You may not think it is possible but it is.  Children can learn big words as well as small words; all it takes is exposure and frequency and opportunity.  My friend Alison used to say to the children in her group when a conflict arose, “Are you helping or a hindering?” Those children definitely came out of that year knowing the word “hinder” and could use it appropriately.

As Thanksgiving approaches, think about ways you can incorporate words like “cornucopia” – or any other 10 dollar word into your conversations about the Thanksgiving meal (if this is appropriate for your community).  You might discuss what “abundant” means and explore how many of the world’s cultures celebrates their harvest just like we do.


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