Math All Around Us: K/1 Introduction to Math

Author: admin

This weekly newsletter sent out in October 2017, is authored by K/1 Co-Teacher Team, Alayne Vokurka and Heather Isham.

Introduction to Math

Children’s play is effortlessly rich in math practice. Fred Rogers said, “Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” We see children integrating math experiences naturally all day. It is our work, as teachers, to have intentional tools at the ready to encourage this integration. When we use mathematics as a lens for our day, we see it everywhere.  Recently, students measured pumpkin heights and acorn squash weights during Soft Start unprompted. Students compared their height to the height of a magnatile structure hoping to build over their heads. On the playground, students counted how many steps they could balance on the large mulch tubing. Our theme study work has been full of math opportunities.

We covet every opportunity to make math relevant for our students. We use natural materials whenever possible and use our woodlands whenever applicable. Recently, our first year math students went on a nature walk searching for patterns. We were amazed as students pointed out patterns in bark, stones on the cottage and in the veins on a leaf. Children have an innate ability to look closely. Students sketched what they observed. The next morning, we led our kindergarten math students on the same hike to uncover the patterns in nature. We welcome opportunities for children to lead and be teachers. To accompany this study of patterns, we are making a book of pictures and descriptions, integrating writing whenever possible.

We have found that young children learn best through play and that “the only way to learn mathematics is to do mathematics” (Paul Halmos). In kindergarten and first grade, our students do most of their learning through station work. Students work in small groups or individually with intentional materials to help them construct meaning. Through this station work, students are able to gather, compare, classify, measure, interpret, calculate, notice patterns and draw conclusions using a variety of materials.

As teachers, we learn and plan our next steps by watching carefully the way in which they use the materials. We ask strategic questions to encourage conversation and take understanding to a deeper level. In listening to conversations, we are able to help students make connections between their prior knowledge and new discoveries. We take notes and photographs so that we are able to go back and reflect in quieter moments. This small group work allows us to challenge students who are ready and also remediate for those that may need some extra practice. We want math to be a joyful experience.

We are purposeful and systematic about the skills taught during kindergarten math and the skills saved for first year students. Kindergarten students do extensive calendar work to weave together basic numeration skills, counting the days of school (addition and place value), days of the week, months of the year, tallying and graphing. A favorite for first graders is the >100 Jar. Each week students have the opportunity to estimate the items in the jar. On Fridays, we unfold the guesses and put them in a number line. The student closest to the actual number gets to take the jar home to fill and return on Monday. The estimates get more accurate as the weeks go by and it is a joy to be in the company of children who love this process.

As parents, you can partner with us to nurture your child’s math learning through real-life daily activities at home. The trick is being able to recognize math opportunities in the moment. You are probably practicing math more than you realize if you pause a moment and reflect on your day using the math lens. Invite your child to help you bake a cake and let them do the measuring. Help your child use a piggy bank to save up for something special. Ask your child to help you with weighing fruit at the grocery store. Count how many steps to get to your door from the car. Mark your child’s height in a door jam. Help your child gain an awareness of time by saying things like, “At 6:00 we will eat dinner. That means you have 5 more minutes to play.” Sing songs in the car such as “Five Green and Speckled Frogs,” and “Five Little Pumpkins,” or chant as you count by 2’s, 5’s and 10’s. Lastly, board games are rich with mathematical concepts and help achieve what we all desire as parents: closeness with our children. We are excited to watch your children grow as mathematicians this school year.

Enjoy your weekend!

Alayne and Heather