Saturday, 13 February 2016

Maths in the early years

Research is showing that children who don't attend childcare have higher levels of numeracy ability than children who do.

Umm, this is a problem obviously, and it's definitely something that we should be looking at. So, apparently the reason for this is that children who are cared for by parents are often involved in aspects of the parents' routines. This could be shopping, "Now we need to get buy three oranges. One, two, three" (Learning about numbers means learning one-to-one correspondence. Understanding the concept of numbers is much more important than learning to recite them). This could be cooking "Now, I'll measure this cup of flour and then you can stir it for me." This could be folding the washing. "I'll put all these shirts in a pile, and these towels over here." (Sorting and classifying). "Oh, it's nearly time to pick your brother up from school. Oops, 2.30." (Beginning to understand time).

So the common denominator is .......? Language. We need to talk more. Numeracy learning is part of life. It's one of the easiest things to incorporate into our programs. We need to remember to use language more, like a parent would. Children are engaging with maths concepts all the time. Much of our resouces are designed with this in mind - puzzles, sorting toys, stacking cups, scales, wooden blocks, water play etc. The most valuable thing that we can do is to model the use of mathematical language while children are engaging with these concepts with their hands. Learning should be concrete, and our job is to draw children's attention to the language that supports the concepts.

Songs and stories are full of numeracy and maths learning. The more of these that we can use in our program the better. 

So, language to use:

Lighter, heavier, full, empty, long, short, longer, shorter, wider, higher.

More than, less than, longer than, shorter than, emptier, fuller.

"I just need to count you before we go to Yoga. 1, 2, 3, 4,"

"How many colours do you think we need?"

"Now let's pack up the blocks on this shelf and the Lego in this basket."

"I'll give you half a bowl of lunch and then if you want more you can have more."

"How about we share this sandwich evenly between you."

See, numeracy language is everywhere. Just remember to talk!

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