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Integrating Math Activities

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Dear Debi,
I care for two 5-year-olds who love to read. However, they get bored or frustrated when it comes to doing math. I try to introduce age-appropriate math problems to them, but they donít seem interested. How can I make math more fun for them?
Elsa, Glendale, CA
Debi's Tips
Debi Gutierrez
Debi Gutierrez
Host
  • Math is more than learning numbers
  • Use everyday experiences to teach math
  • Ask math-related questions throughout the day
Expert Advice
Sabra Smith, Ed.D.
Sabra Smith, Ed.D.
Education & Curriculum Specialist
Children before age five donít have a lot of memory skills. A three-year-old is not developmentally ready to memorize these facts. Math facts are abstract and not meaningful to children. They have to first build their own understanding of underlying concepts. They can learn this from repetition. Doing something over and over again and being exposed to something regularly and consistently is the way to incorporate math for young children.

The fundamental math skills for young kids are numbers, recognition, sorting, pattern, sequencing, and quantities. Make sure all learning is age-appropriate and make sure to make it fun and a part of your everyday routine. Activities like sorting socks from the laundry or putting toys away by color are all everyday activities that teach kids these concepts.

For older children, I think itís a good idea to use cross-disciplinary learning. When youíre reading, ask children ďHow many butterflies do you see on this pageĒ or ask children, ďWhat kinds of animals do you see in this book?Ē Then you can start mixing math experiences in literature. Cooking with kids is also a great way for children to be exposed to math concepts because they are learning about quantity, measurements, portions while they are also learning about food and nutrition.

When kids enter this stage of development, age-appropriate exposure to these activities teach kids all sort of skills, including math. I also suggest seizing upon teachable moments to infuse math, because everyday moments can be turned into a teachable moment.

Kids learn from hands-on approach where they can see what you are talking about. Kids learn by using and repetition. So use toys, books, tangible objects that they can relate to, see and touch. It brings down the math concept to their learning level. It makes it more user-friendly and sustainable for the child.

Open-ended questions allow children to explore math ideas and learn through activities that you provide them. These questions help them to use their problem-solving skills and itís also a great tool for a child care provider to evaluate what kids know. You can focus on how to help them continue to learn or see where they need some extra attention.

Asking questions encourages kids to explore and experiment and puts the provider in a facilitator role, instead of simply dictating what they will learn. It allows children to think for themselves and respond, instead of the child care provider telling kids everything about something. Open-ended questions are great because they lead to more questions and more learning for kids so they continue to build on their knowledge.
Child Care provider Comments
Diane Ferguson
Diane Ferguson
Child care provider for 3 years
I think itís important to make math fun and work it into activities throughout the day. We count Cheerios in the morning or slice a banana and count out the number of slices. We sort blocks by color. We have matching games and puzzles. We even incorporate math during clean-up activities such as counting the chairs as we put them away.
Alma Martinez
Alma Martinez
Child care provider for 10 years
The best way to introduce math is by adding aspects of math into activities they donít expect to learn math from. For example, when we serve snacks, Iíll have the kids count how many kids there are. Then they have to set the table with the correct amount of napkins, forks, etc. We also have a thermometer outside and we talk about when it goes way up high that means itís very hot. In the playhouse area, the kids will set up the cash register and play restaurant and count out the money. In all the activities we do, thereís some aspect of math involved.
Clarissa August
Clarissa August
Family child care provider for 21 years
Itís easy to introduce math concepts to kids through everyday activities like cooking. I have my kids with me when I cook and they can see and help me measure and mix ingredients together for recipes. Plus, they are using math all the time in all sorts of activities. For instance, when they are drawing shapes, they are doing math. When they are playing with blocks, they count the blocks. Math activities happen all around them.

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Math in Dramatic Play
Topic: Early Learning Areas
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Related Episodes
How Babies Learn
How Babies Learn (Part 2)
Math Activities & Week in Review
Teachable Moments II
Math Activities & Week in Review
Resources
The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)
Scholastic / Math
Teacher QuickSource
Downloads (Get Reader)
Tips on Doing Math with Preschoolers pdf
 
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