So much of what children are discovering in early childhood has a mathematical spin. Everyday experiences in early childhood centers are helping little ones learn early mathematical concepts. In this article, I will focus on some ideas of how to incorporate maths every day for the little ones in our care, capitalizing on the teachable moments as they arise and most of all making maths fun.
Here are some neat ideas to try:
1. Beginning to classify and sort
- Recognition of familiar objects and toys is the beginning of early sorting and classifying
- Talking about the attributes of objects - rough or smooth, big or small - help children to build an understanding of how they are similar or different.
- Tidy up time and sorting toys into colours/types proividers another great opportunity to develop these concepts.
2. Repetition of a pattern
- Pressing buttons on a favourite toy that produces a repeated response
- Lots of fun with music and beat
- Repetitive actions like swinging, rolling toys down a slope, scooping sand in a bucket
3. Measurement: looking at comparisons relating to size and lengths
- Big, bigger and biggest
- Small, smaller and smallest
- Long, longer and longest
- Short, shorter and shortest
- Same or different
- Near or far
- Wide or narrow
- Deep or shallow
- Matches or doesn't match
- Tiny or gigantic
4. Measurement: looking at comparisons relating to mass
- Lots of experiences with playdough and sandplay
- Experimenting with simple weighing machines
- Pushing, pulling and lifting objects, and discussing whether they are heavy or light
- Use words and phrases like same, not the same, balanced, not balanced, hard to lift, easy to lift
5. Measurement: looking at comparisons relating to volume and capacity
- Children need lots of time to develop an understanding of these concepts, especially with sand and water play
- Use lots of different sizes and shapes of containers
- Verbalising with children during play is vital
- Use words and phrases like half full, half empty, overflowing, too much, too little, holds more, holds less, spoonful, bucketful, spadeful, enough, and not enough
6. Measurement: looking at comparisons relating to time and speed
- This can be a difficult concept for young children
- Important activities to develop an understanding about speed include rolling marbles and small vehicles down planks and spouting, playing with spinning tops, and dancing to fast and slow music.
- Concepts like morning, afternoon, yesterday, today, tomorrow, daytime, night-time, mat time, sleep time, morning tea, afternoon tea, and lunch time build up important early understandings about time.
7. Spatial Awareness
- Lots of physical and hands-on play will create opportunities to develop the language of spatial concepts.
- Outdoor play and gross motor activities, such as climbing on playground equipment, are important for little ones
- Use words and phrases like in front of, behind, in between, before, after, beside, next to, around, over, under, on top of, underneath, higher, lower, forwards, backwards, near and far
8. Numbers and Counting
- Lots and lots of counting all through the day - children on the mat, toys on the table, chairs needed for lunch...
- Mat time rhymes and songs provide an incredible opportunity to repeat numbers over and over again. Have lots of fun with children singing and counting, counting and singing!
Julie Whitcombe has a passion for young children's learning and is currently involved with providing professional development for teachers around New Zealand. She is the director of Thinking Caps for Kids Ltd; a company creating educational resources in numeracy and language, providing professional development for teachers and running parent information meetings.