So why does it differ when it comes to mathematics?
Why don't we as naturally draw out or highlight the mathematics happening in conversations, the everyday interactions and our play?
Before studying some of Douglas Clements research a few years back, we neglected to truly understand the depth of early mathematics and how complex the idea of understanding 0-10 actually is! We often assumed that if children could count to 10, they understood what they were doing and we would challenge them to count higher instead of talking with them about what 5 means.
One of our children actually asked us once "What grade will we do math in?". That was a huge moment for us to step back and recognize that we as educators had not been as intentional and clear about mathematics in our daily interactions as we could have been.
We assume that when we do an activity or play a game with young children that they understand that it is math based. But without explicit language and direction, the mathematics can be lost or unrecognized.
So... how do we engage with math? How can we get children talking about it?
We try to focus our small and large group meeting times on opportunities to TALK about mathematics - perhaps while actively engaged in a game or maybe by simply looking at a picture and reflecting on what mathematics we are seeing.
Talking about mathematics may spark an interest in mathematics for young children, decreased math anxiety, supports language development, deeper thinking, new perspectives, and a chance to highlight different ways of seeing and thinking about mathematics.
Some ways that you can TALK about mathematics in play and daily interactions:
- Look for and notice numbers in the environment (on signs, clocks, cars, houses, posters)
- Provide opportunities to count objects in genuine ways: snacks, materials needed for art
- Describe and notice shapes in the environment: when tidying or playing with blocks ("can you pass me the semicircle?"), when drawing, on signs, in the community
- Use directional language: in games, during play
- Measure in genuine ways: a great way to engage with measurement is through cooking or baking together, make play dough, provide measurement tools in sensory bins or building areas
- Small Group Games: be sure to highlight and discuss what mathematics the children notice in the games (you may have to model at first)
How do you know that?
What did you see that gave you a clue?
Where else have you seen that before?
By encouraging our children to talk about mathematics, we have noticed that they are more confident, engaged and excited to try new things and they truly see themselves as mathematicians! Talking about mathematics also provides children to understand that math is NOT about always being right or wrong or having only ONE SOLUTION. So important if we want to inspire children to love mathematics and embrace it as they move through their schooling journey!