Welcome to Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten! My class blog is the place I share information about some of the fun learning activities we are doing at school. I hope to provide parents with insight into what we are doing, and why, and to share ideas with other early childhood educators. Please don't use the photos or text of this blog without permission, but please do use any ideas you find useful. Thank you for stopping by!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Developing Mathematical Thinking, Part 2

There are so many things that are important for children to learn in preschool, but the thing that I believe is THE most important thing, is that learning is FUN!  I want my kiddos to leave me knowing that it is fun to learn, so they will become self directed, life long learners. 

One of the ways I foster a love of learning, is by letting the children play to learn.  We have a lot of free play time, and an abundance of toys to choose from. Just because the children are playing, doesn't mean I'm not teaching too.  One of my roles as an early childhood teacher is to facilitate learning, to create situations in which children can play and learn all at once.

This post is about some of our mathematical learning, how I create an environment in which children love to play and learn.  You can read my earlier blog about this, Developing Mathematical Thinking, here.

After lunch most days, I set out some math games for the kiddos to choose from.  During this time the teachers are cleaning up from lunch, making sure everyone has a turn in the restroom, and supervising math play.  It's a busy time, but just right for the children to come and go from the math activities that are set out for them to choose from.

This wonderful sorting board came in this set from Lakeshore learning.  I added the colored paper rectangles for sorting colors, but it also works well for these coins.  We've been learning about coins, singing songs about money on Youtube.com, and of course it is money, so the children are interested in it!  I have always allowed them to use real coins.  Not only are they more interesting because they are real, but they cost less than the plastic ones!

Here is one of our patterning toys.  The cards have incomplete patterns of varying difficulty, and the children match, complete, or extend the patterns with colorful shape tiles.  Lots of fun and good practice for the kiddos,  very easy for me.  I found it at Barnes and Noble, it's also available here.  (No, I don't have any affiliation with any retailers, and won't get a cut, but if you like the toy, it's nice to know what it is and where you might find it.)
These magnets have been around a long time, so I can't tell you where they're from.

Here are our tangrams and geoboards...
and sorting with a Venn diagram.
 Learning games don't have to be expensive, or fancy.  I found these colorful hair bows at the dollar store, and they are lovely for fine motor development and to sort and make patterns.


 Here is an activity with dollar store and upcycled parts.  The sorting tray originally came with cookies or something on it, and I saved it.  The baby themed items came from the dollar store, this is about $8 worth of colorful manipulatives.  Sometimes the children sort by color, other times by the shape.  The clear lidded container I keep them in is also a reused food container. 

These girls worked a long time with the parquetry blocks, making squares out of two triangles.  Later, when they are learning geometry, they will understand why the area of a triangle is half the base times the height - they've used two triangles to create a rectangle many times.  This is foundational learning that will serve them well!
 We've been playing with the dominoes recently, as learning what '6', and other numbers, look like, is part of developing number sense. While we start by just exploring the materials....
...we later learn how to really play the game, and enjoy practicing the skill of subitizing - recognizing numbers without counting.
 We measure sometimes too.  I know children this age aren't supposed to understand measurement with standard units, but here they are, demonstrating that they do. 
In the lower left corner of this picture you can see a good early activity for measuring.  I cut up some dollar store necklaces into various short lengths.  On the red cards I wrote shorter, equal, and longer.  There is a line on the white card.  The kiddos measure each segment against the line, and decide which red card to put it with, based on size. 

Math is all around us, all the time, we just have to stop and notice.  Children love to 'play' with fun themed items (always supervise, especially children who still put things in their mouths).  They can sort by different attributes (color, size, shape) and make patterns.  They can manipulate shapes to see how they fit together, read dots on dice or dominoes, and look for ways things are the same and different.  Did I mention counting? 

I hope you will look for fun ways to incorporate math into your child's play times!

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