Don’t say you are not a math person…. slow down & stay a while.
D.C.N. Developing Child Note: The emergent math skills of children 0 -5 begin way before number recognition and counting. Observations and explorations relating to mathematical understanding happen every day in the lives of little ones. Open-ended questions pave the earliest roads towards mathematical understanding. “Mathematics for young children should involve helping them make meaningful connections through play, discovery, and exploration in natural environments” (Linder, Powers-Costello, & Stegelin, 2011, p 30).
Don’t count yourself out of math.. Just think outside the box
Young children mirror adult behaviors, language, and attitudes. An important channel to fostering young children’s early mathematic success is consistent positive dispositions towards mathematics. Projecting warm “feels” is important for encouraging young children to stay curious and confident in early math exploration.
Working from that positive head space, you can confidently begin to push children’s math understanding by asking good questions. Go fearlessly towards a fresh exploration of all things math! (Positive Math Attitude Modeling by Adults for Young Children: .)
First, begin to see yourself as a math person. Look for ways that you find yourself naturally motivated toward math related activities. (music notes) If you’re jazzed and you know it, share it with the child in your life! (music notes).
Second, look for mathematical concepts in familiar but new spaces. I mean look for math in typical routines and daily practices that you wouldn’t normally consider with mathematical lenses. Keep it simple, emergent math categories commonly found within adult routines and children’s play include common but perhaps previously overlooked skills: classification (grouping sorting, organizing), magnitude (“big and bigger” describing and comparing size), dynamics (putting together, taking apart, reversing, flipping and rotating objects), patterning and shape (pretty simple, although patterns are sneaky, they are everywhere), spatial relations (location and direction), and enumeration (subtizing, or knowing a number without counting actual objects, we subtilize with dice) (Clements & Sarama, 2009).
Third, play with math to model and scaffold flexibility, comfort, and ease. Start with what is comfy for you… Get your hands on How Many Bugs in A Box by David A. Carter and explore the bugs and boxes in new ways with brave math focused questions such as:
– On the first page: How did you know it was just one bug? (exploring subitizing skills and enumeration)
–On the second page: Do you know of any other polka dot bugs? (categorizing skills)
–On the third page: Will the taller box have more bugs? (magnitude work)
–On the fourth page: How does this box work? How do the bugs disappear? (dynamics work)
–On the fifth page: What shapes do you see on this page? (patterning and shape vocabulary)
-On the sixth page: Tell me which direction the fly is flying? (spatial relations)
Finally, make it your own! The possibilities are endless, for example, you can explore categorization by gathering and providing the following materials to young children:
– Your spare button drawer
– Socks from the laundry
– Hair bows
– Plastic bugs
Gurl, you have no idea how many math work sheets I’ve seen in 4 and 5-year-old kindergarten classrooms lately. Woof! My childhood was ripe with observations and explorations that naturally capitulated early mathematical understandings. I would help my mom cook regularly. Vacationing in a motor home my entire childhood, we loaded and unloaded the tiny kitchen with supplies for a weekend, two weeks, or our month long July trip to St. Augustine. I was regularly sent on reconnaissance jobs. Here’s how it went…
Mom asks, “Do we have enough paper plates?” Breathless (from running downstairs, into the motor home, out of the motor home and back up the basement stairs) 5-year-old me replied, “We have some”. Mom retorts, “A lot or a little?” attempting to mask frustration. “Medium.” I say and hold up the thumb and pointer of my right hand with about an inch and a half between them. “That tall?” Mom confirms. “yep!” Recall your own positive early experiences with math and rewrite your story to include how you are, in fact, a math person.
You can do this. It is simpler than you think!
Want to know more?
For handy teacher tips, check out her TYC article about sharing playful math
with families: Linder, S.M. (2017). Math Take-Home Bags:
Activities to Support Family Math Play. Teaching Young Children 11(1), p 29-31.
Other References: Sarama, J., & Clements, D. H. (2009). Building blocks and cognitive building blocks: Playing to know the world mathematically. American Journal of Play, 1(3), 313-337.