THINK OF MATHEMATICS AS PLAY
Children take a natural interest in mathematics. They want to find out who is tallest, who can jump the furthest, who is oldest, etc. They compare and measure and play around with what are, in fact, mathematical concepts. Mathematics in kindergarten is quite different from the general view of mathematics as something that belongs in school, where it deals with learning to add and subtract, and how to solve equations. In kindergarten, mathematics is play.
MATHEMATICS FOR INSPIRATION
Mathematics can be found in many of the activities that already take place in kindergarten. When the children play with building blocks, sort things by shape, count, cut things out, do beading, or toss dice, they are working with geometry, understanding numbers, symmetry and probabilities. Research indicates that being aware that these activities also involve playing with maths may provide inspiration for other educational activities that can be used to deliberately have fun exploring mathematics, for example, what something weighs, measuring things, figuring out how patterns are related, etc.
Join the children on mathematical treasure hunts and try to find things that show how mathematics is more than lines and pictures in a book.
It is not always important to find the answer to a mathematical problem. Problems can sometimes be difficult, and the children understand that. Once you have the answer, the problem is no longer as interesting. If you follow the children’s wonder and ask questions, you help encourage their curiosity as well as their ability to figure out solutions and find answers for themselves.
GO ON TREASURE HUNTS
Mathematics is all around us. In the shapes of doors, windows, roofs, and so on. Join the children on mathematical treasure hunts and try to find things that show how mathematics is more than lines and pictures in a book. This will make mathematics varied and lead to good conversations. When children encounter something that resembles a triangle, but isn’t quite right, they can talk about how you can tell a triangle from other shapes.
USE THE OUTDOORS
The outdoors offers a myriad of opportunities to work with mathematics. The little ones can collect things, then take them back indoors and work on sorting them, based on their different properties. Pine cones are useful, because they have scales that can be picked off, changing their shape and weight. Rocks come in a wide variety of shapes – some are almost round, some oblong, some are bigger or lighter than others – and the children can take advantage of the differences to work with shapes, sizes, weight, length, etc.
USING DIGITAL TOOLS
They can use digital cameras or cell phones to take pictures of different shapes – round, narrow, angular. They can take pictures when they are out for a walk, for instance. When they get back to the kindergarten, they can look for examples of mathematics in the pictures. There are also games available for tablets or computers that children can play on their own to learn to work with mathematical concepts.
HAVE FUN WITH MATHEMATICS DURING CIRCLE TIME
Circle time offers a natural venue for playing with mathematics. The group can do head counts to see that everyone is there, count how many are wearing blue trousers, how many have short hair, etc. Another possibility is the memory game. You display a number of objects on a tray on the floor, then cover them up and ask the children to recall what is hidden under the cover. It can be something blue, something shaped like a circle, etc.
PUTTING MATHEMATICS INTO WORDS
Try to use mathematical terms. When you talk about geometric shapes like triangles, rectangles and circles, you are helping the children develop concepts they need for reference. You are offering them language that they can make their own. At the same time, it is important to be sure that the content is included, that is, that the children understand what the words are describing. Most children will understand what it means for something to be round before they understand that the shape is called a circle; it is highly individual when children are ready to put names to concepts.