Teaching Kindergarten and Preschool Math
How to teach math...
Teaching kindergarten and preschool math concepts requires much more than handing children math workbooks or worksheets.
Children need to have math experiences that incorporate their senses, that require them to experiment and make observations, and that allow them time to investigate a topic further.
Children learn at their own rate and frequently return to former tasks and try solving them in new ways.
Kindergarten and preschool math - how do young children learn math?
Children need concrete objects (real stuff, manipulatives - materials, blocks, counters, popsicle sticks...) in order to make sense of new math concepts or abstract ideas. Read, "Teaching with manipulatives", for easy steps on how to do this .
Only after children have had ample opportunities to learn a new concept with real objects are they ready to connect their learning to abstract symbols such as numbers and math symbols (34, 22, +, -).
Children need plenty of time to play with math materials before they use them for teacher guided math activities.
A meaningful vocabulary
Children need to link math to their everyday experiences. Math games and activities are good opportunities to build math vocabulary. They need vocabulary to express their mathematical experiences. For more information read, "Helping children build a math vocabulary".
Sample Lesson: Teaching kindergarten and preschool math measurement
1. Always give the child a couple of weeks to play with the concrete objects that you are planning to teach with, in this case, wooden blocks. Children need to explore the materials before they are ready to use them in a structured activity.
2. Demonstrate what you would like the child to do. Choose a pile of blocks that are identical and a book.
Line the blocks up against the book; then count the blocks.
Say, "My book is 4 blue blocks long". Repeat this process a few times. Point out where the first block starts and the last block ends. (Blocks will not be the exact length of the book)
Talk about why you need to use identical blocks. Have the children choose a book and identical blocks and try to measure their books. At the beginning, the children are just getting used to the idea that things can be measured.
Next math period, children pay more attention to accuracy, where their blocks are starting and ending. Use vocabulary such as half a block and middle of the block.
3. Next day model measuring an object and then recording the results with a picture. Teaching kindergarten and preschool math requires lots of modeling.
After the children have recorded their math results as a group on a large paper and they appear to understand the concept of measurement with concrete objects, have them repeat the measurement activity and record their learning.
You can provide them with teacher made worksheets or have them create their own recording sheets. Now the children begin to connect their concrete learning to abstract symbols, known as the representational, connecting or picture stage.
4. Only after the above connections have been made are children ready to use only abstract symbols. In this case they would have had much more work with units of measurement and standard units like inches or centimeters.
- When teaching kindergarten and preschool math start with shorter periods of structured activities and increase when the group is ready.
- Change groups frequently as children learn from and gather ideas and vocabulary from each other.
- When children lose interest, change the materials and tasks slightly.
- Small groups of ten children work well for kindergarten math structured activities. The other children can be doing unstructured free exploration with other math equipment at this time.
- You will need to train kindergarten and preschool children to care for classroom materials during the first month of school and with each new set of objects you add to the classroom.
- Don't put all the math materials out at once.