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Did you know that almost everything we do relies on some form of mathematical thinking? Think about when you serve a meal or set a table. How do you know where to set the plates or glasses or how many to use? To complete this task, we rely on our understanding of patterns, counting, and estimation skills. Imagine riding a bicycle without understanding distance, balance, or spatial orientation. Without these skills, many of us might still need training wheels and a guide! Did you know that almost everything we do relies on some form of mathematical thinking? Think about when you serve a meal or set a table. How do you know where to set the plates or glasses or how many to use? To complete this task, we rely on our understanding of patterns, counting, and estimation skills. Imagine riding a bicycle without understanding distance, balance, or spatial orientation.
Without these skills, many of us might still need training wheels and a guide!
Math Connections = Play and Learning
At DCM, we understand how often math comes into play throughout our lives and that it is important to provide opportunities for children to investigate, practice, and reflect on math. According to the position statement “Early Childhood Mathematics: Promoting Good Beginnings,” by exposing children to math concepts and models early on through hands-on explorations, experimentations, and literature, we better prepare them for the opportunities that await them! (National Association for the Education of Young Children and National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 2003)
Almost all young children engage in a substantial amount of pre-mathematical activity in their self-directed free-play. Through higher-level play, where children are presented with opportunities to explore patterns, shapes, and spatial relations, compare magnitudes, and count objects, young children can learn to “possess an informal knowledge of mathematics that is amazingly broad, complex, and sophisticated” (Education Commission of the States, 2013). Research demonstrates that early math skills are a better predictor of later academic success than early reading. Something fascinating that I learned during our keynote address for the Math Symposium is that there is also a correlation between early math skills and later reading achievement. More simply put, children who develop a good mathematical foundation in preschool are more likely to be stronger readers than children who do not develop math skills early on.
The Museum developed its Math Connections neighborhood in order to best provide children with opportunities to explore, experiment, discover, and enjoy math concepts at their own pace. Museum staff consulted with math education experts while developing each of the exhibits within this neighborhood. Each of the exhibits in Math Connections addresses one or more of the following math concepts:
Measurement and balance – understanding size, length, width, capacity, weight, quantity, and equality
Algebra – understanding “patterns, mathematical situations and structures, quantitative relationships, and change” (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 2000)
Counting and estimation – understanding numbers, one-to-one correspondence
Geometry and spatial understanding – ability to visualize relationships of objects in space; understanding words like up/down, more/less, around, top/bottom, etc.
Sorting and classifying – understanding categorization of things with shared attributes, understanding same/different
How Can I Make the Most of My Visit to Math Connections?
As you explore the Math Connections neighborhood, be sure to talk to your children about their experiences. Research affirms that even seemingly trivial instances of “math talk” can demonstrate improvement in preschoolers’ math skills. Don’t know where to start? Talking about math is easier than you might think!
On your next visit to Math Connections, try to:
Use descriptive words related to quantity, size, space, or number. You might try using the following words: more/less, large/small, tall/short, wide/narrow, few/many.
Looking for ways to promote math at home? Come back next week for a blog chock-full of ideas and strategies to build a strong foundation.
Klibanoff, Raquel S.; Levine, Susan C.; Huttenlocher, Janellen; Vasilyeva, Marina; Hedges, Larry V. “Preschool children’s mathematical knowledge: The effect of teacher “math talk.” Developmental Psychology. January, 2006. Volume 42(1). 59-69.
National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. 2000. Principles and standards for school mathematics. Reston, VA: NCTM
Education Commission of the States. Math in the Early Years: A Strong Predictor for Later School Success. The Progress of Education Reform. October, 2013. Vol. 14 (5). 1-7