Thursday, May 21, 2020

Early Childhood Math Concepts at Home | Distance Learning Series #4

    I had great intentions of completing this series earlier, but we all know how good intentions sometimes go. ;) Although school is ending here, I know many schools are still in session, and many others are looking at potentially continuing with distance learning or a hybrid type situation in the fall, so I decided it would still be timely to continue my series as planned. Besides, these ideas are good for any time, pandemic or no.

    Today's installment is directed more at parents. I know so many parents have been intimidated by the idea of teaching their children at home. I can honestly tell you that, even as a teacher myself, it isn't easy to keep up with my own children's learning on top of all of my other responsibilities. I have found, both in parenting and in teaching, that often the most meaningful activities are the ones that pack the biggest punch in the shortest amount of time, especially when disguised as fun.

    Here are five activities you can easily complete with your child at home, with items you already have on hand, to continue reinforcing math concepts during this time when school is not in session.

1. "Open Your Eyes, Subitize!"
    If you're wondering what on earth "subitize" means, don't worry! It's not nearly as intimidating as the word itself sounds. Subitizing is simply the act of recognizing a quantity of objects automatically, without counting them. We subitize every time we roll a dice and know automatically how many dots there are.
    Pre-K and kindergarten kids love this game! Simply gather some small objects (coins, paperclips, blocks, anything!) and something to cover them with (a dishtowel, bandana, etc.). Hide some of the objects under the towel while your child closes her eyes. Then dramatically say, "Open your eyes, subitize!" As your child opens her eyes, whisk away the towel. See how quickly she can tell you how many objects there are. Encourage this to happen without counting, but it is okay if she wants to count to double-check her answer.

2. One to One Correspondence
    To encourage 1:1 correspondence, have your child count objects, touching each object as it is counted. Then, take this a step further by having your child help with things like setting the table. This can be as simple as, "There are four people in our family. Make sure each person gets one plate." Or make it more fun by setting up a teddy bear picnic, and making sure each animal gets one plate, one cup, one cookie...

3. Shapes
    Encourage your child to find shapes in everyday objects around the house or in the neighborhood. This can be done through observations, "Look at that square window. Do you see anything else that is square?" Carry the conversation further with comments like, "I knew it was square because all four sides are the same length, and the corners are square." You could also use these shape finders and have your child play shape detective!

4. Sorting
    Have your child sort items in different ways. He could sort blocks by size, then mix them up, and sort them again by color. Sorting the same items in more than one way reinforces the idea of sorting by a specific attribute.

5. Measuring and Comparing
    Kids love measuring! Depending on your comfort level with sensory play, you could let your child play with different sizes of cups and bowls outside in the dirt, with water in the bathtub, etc. This type of exploratory play teaches a lot on its own, but you can enhance the experience with your own self-talk: "The red cup is taller, but the blue cup is wider. I wonder which one will hold more?"
    You can also work with non-standard units of measure for length: "I wonder how many paperclips long this pencil is?" "How many pieces of cereal do you think it will take to make a line as long as this spoon?"
    Comparing comes naturally when engaging in activities of measurement, but can also be encouraged as it comes up in conversation. "Do you see that dog? He is a lot bigger than Grandma's dog." Comments and observations like these may seem unimportant to us as adults, but children use them to construct meaning in the world around them.

    There are numerous other ways to work on math concepts at home, and I hope this post has helped you realize how simple it is to help your young child continue to develop these concepts while schools are closed. Please don't feel intimidated by the idea of teaching your child; parents are the child's first teacher, and children soak up knowledge like sponges! Any time you can work some simple math into an activity or conversation, even for just a few minutes, you are laying a foundation for solid math skills.

Hang in there; we will all get through this together!
Keep teaching (and parenting!) with heart and passion!

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