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Building Blocks Math From Pre-K to Grade 2

(James M. Thresher - For The Washington Post)

What are some other tools you can use?

Just the language you use helps bring math reasoning into your day. Talk about "fewer," "less than," "more than," "adding to." . . . You also want to have the right materials in the classroom. For example, have things that children can sort and classify by shape and size -- buttons and keys and shells. Math is all about learning about comparisons and putting things into sets and being able to differentiate and classify. These are tools you use later in geometry and algebra.

Math Thinking Emerges

"Most math started by trying to describe the world around us in one way or another," said Henry Kepner, president of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. "What is shorter or taller? How does this compare to that? Is that bigger or longer?"

Children encounter math when building a tower of blocks, sharing jelly beans with a friend or measuring their height on the kitchen door frame.

But it takes a teacher or a guide to help "mathematize" the lesson, said Douglas Clements, an expert on early math education at the University of Buffalo. That often means giving children a vocabulary for what they are doing or helping them analyze the activity.

Many approaches to early math education center on capturing children's natural interest in observing, measuring and comparing.

Math at Home

Here are tips for parents or child-care providers who want to introduce math concepts. They are adapted from guidelines promoted by Fairfax Futures, an organization that promotes early childhood education.

With an infant or toddler:

· Count buttons as you dress your child; count the number of cookies on a plate.

· Use toys that allow your child to sort shapes.

· Show your child how to recognize patterns; arrange toys or food by whether they are the same or different.

· Use a few number words, such as "one" and "two."


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