Tag Archives: math

Math in the Early Years: Infants and Toddlers

sorting-with-toddlerMath skills can be introduced and reinforced in every classroom at every age. Developing math skills is a process which has many stages and requires foundation building. In fact, as early as infancy, math vocabulary and counting skills can be introduced through teacher modeling. Sounds crazy, but it’s true; language comprehension begins in infancy. Think about some of those finger play songs you sing and board books you’re reading to infants. Those activities are introducing math vocabulary, number words, and quantifying—and it’s not even taking place at the math center. When we think outside the math center box, we realize math concepts can be intertwined throughout every classroom area/activity, during daily routines, and even transitions. All it takes is a little intentional teaching and teacher-child engagement.

Let’s think about a few math staples that can be introduced and strengthened during this process of development. Here are some of the concepts you should be aware of, and some examples to support building the foundation for math with infants and toddlers:

Sorting—separating objects into groups according to attributes (i.e., sorting colored teddy bears could be done by grouping them into color sets).

  • Teachers can enhance sorting skills as they include fun facts into everyday conversations. For example, helping children organize or make sets by grouping them according to what color shirt they are wearing, Velcro shoes verses shoes that tie, or even materials grouped by texture (i.e., soft, hard, smooth, rough).

Global stage—child makes set perceptually (i.e., eye-balling it, taking a handful).

  • Helping children understand and construct math vocabulary can be done almost anytime and at any age. Think about that toddler in the dumping stage or a child engaged in a sorting activity. The intentional teacher will make comments or ask questions that provoke mathematical vocabulary words. For example, “Which pile do you think has more?” “When you remove a handful, you’re decreasing the amount in the pile,” and “Which piles look/are equal?” These interactions can also be relevant when the child is engaged in a sorting activity.

Rote counting—children verbally putting the number words in order (usually memorized, not necessarily quantifying objects).

  • A common rote counting activity for infants could be “1, 2, and 3, so big” or “1, 2, peek-a-boo.” As children get older the intentional teacher builds on those skills through interactions such as, “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, JUMP!”, and of course counting books.

Spatial reasoning—the ability to understand and remember the spatial relations among objects.

  • Interacting with puzzles, setting out chairs at snack time, exploring with and climbing inside boxes, and even giving children the opportunty to independently self-feed are all activities that will support spatial reasoning skills.

Children start to build a foundation for math at a very young age. These skills can be introduced and reinforced in every classroom area, during everyday transitions or routines, and with every age group. How are you supporting math skills outside the math center?

Stay tuned for Math in the Early Years Part 2: Continuing to strengthen the foundation for quantifying in preschool.

Hands On, Minds On: Science and Math in Afterschool

If you were to ask a group if they were good at reading, there would be very few who would admit to not reading well. In contrast, if you were to ask about their comfort level with math and science, many would say that they harbor a strong dislike for these subjects. Fewer people value or feel competent in math and science and it is socially acceptable. It’s a sad fact, and this attitude often surfaces first in school!

Many of us remember the anxiety of timed tests, conceptual learning through books and worksheets and the droning lectures we often received in math and science classes. Adults can unintentionally undermine children’s math and science ability and attitudes when they say things like, “Math is hard,” or, “I didn’t like science, either, when I was in school.” Although you can’t make a child enjoy science and math, you can encourage them to try new things and appreciate the value in everyday experiences.

Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) is an exciting new initiative in the afterschool field. Many afterschool teachers are nervous about tackling science and math activities because they feel that they have to have all the answers. But STEM is not focused on concepts and vocabulary! STEM is about informal learning building on children’s interests. It’s about the experience and being able to answer the question: What would happen if? Or, what do you think?  It’s hands on and minds on, where children can openly manipulate materials without a recipe or demonstration by an adult. By providing these informal experiences, it’s hoped that children will gain a greater understanding and make connections when they hear concepts taught during the school day. Best of all, it’s fun!

How can we begin to foster this sense of wonder in school age children? 4C for Children offers many STEM workshops, which you can view and register for on our online catalog (under “School-age”). Time Warner Cable has also invested in Connect a Million Minds, a STEM project where teachers and parents can browse countless opportunities for learning. It’s speculated that 80 percent of jobs will require math and science skills in the next decade. In order to prepare children with 21st century skills, it is our job to provide STEM learning that is exciting, creative and fun.