If the key to education in the early years is discovery and problem solving, then math is its perfect partner. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) issued a joint position statement with essential guidelines for educators. The guidelines emphasize the importance of “enhancing children’s natural interest in mathematics and their disposition to use it to make sense of their physical and social worlds.” They also call for the integration of math with other activities and practices that strengthen problem-solving and reasoning skills. That’s exactly what happens in our classrooms. Using a wide variety of manipulatives, the teachers build the foundations for algebraic thinking and geometric understanding that the children will use throughout their lives. The teaching is purposeful, deliberate, and thoughtful, and the children are engaged, enthusiastic, and challenged.
For young children, math is everywhere. They count, classify, sort, see and create shapes, measure, and estimate every day. It’s more than counting, vocabulary, and handwriting numerals. It’s a way of looking at the designs and patterns that are the basis of all mathematical thinking. When children use the chart that records the number of days they’ve been in school, they see patterns of evens and odds, tens and fives, doubles and one- and two-digits. Classification is another important aspect of our math program. Looking at different attributes of objects, children decide which belong together and why. Are the shapes all round and thick? Are the insects all green? Are they with or without an antenna? Here are the classification and symmetry that form the framework for mathematical thought and the natural connection to science.
The integration of Math with other disciplines also happens every day. In Music and Gym, Mrs. Schaeren and Mrs. Cline clap, march, and jump to numbers and patterns. In Science, Mrs. Brocato examines the symmetry of leaves. In Library and in their classrooms, the children hear stories with patterns (Going on a Bear Hunt), size and shape comparisons (Goldilocks), estimating (Friends), and a logical sequence from beginning to end. When they graph the siblings in their families or the common letters in their names, they’re using information that’s personal and information that integrates mathematics with reading. When they begin an activity with estimating, each child moves to the edge of his or her own understanding and everyone is actively engaged and challenged. When concepts are presented in a multitude of ways, the children see relationships and practice skills in a meaningful context that challenges each one to move to the next step of his or her own development. The Preschool Math Their Way program is one of the highlights of a curriculum that challenges thinking, inspires creativity, and responds to the natural internal motivations of children.
Elizabeth Brady Andrews
Head of Preschool