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Kindergarten mathematicians at work! What are they learning?

November 1, 2019 | Abby Liu

It’s just the beginning of the school year but kindergarten mathematicians are already deep into their work. Teacher Bridget O’Dowd tells us what they’re learning and how you can keep the learning going at home.

The kindergarten has just completed their first math unit on counting and are well on their way into the second on measuring. Students are already building strong habits as mathematicians: formulating different strategies (especially for counting!) and learning to double check their work.

In kindergarten, the opportunity for learning about math isn’t confined to Math Workshop, it comes up throughout the day–and it’s fun!

As they count the number of friends in school each day, students are practicing number sense, one-to-one correspondence, comparing lengths of the attendance stick, and community building all in this simple everyday activity!

We can find math tools throughout the room. The class calendar helps us to count the days in a month, know how many days until a special day, and is a great resource to have when we forget how to write a number. And of course, there are the math manipulatives. In the first six weeks of school, we’ve met and explored new materials that we will use throughout this year. Pattern blocks, geoblocks, attribute blocks, and connecting cubes become old favorites in kindergarten.

After reading the story Mouse Count by Ellen Stoll Walsh about a greedy snake who counted his mice as he put them in a jar only to end up with no mice at the end, children met the counting jars. These jars contain various materials in a variety of quantities. We will revisit counting jars frequently over the course of the school year. As we practice counting the collection of objects in each jar, building a set of equal amount, and recording our work, children are developing a strong number sense so that later in their mathematician lives they will be able to manipulate those quantities (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division) with ease and multiple strategies.

We’ve also begun using the clothesline, simple piece of yarn that hangs in the classroom and serves as an interactive number line. Children place cards with various numbers on the “clothesline”  and practice number sequence and flexibility in thinking about numbers. We’ve worked on ordering numbers 0-10 as numbers and representational with dots. This is another way children are developing a strong number sense. They have been practicing seeing a number in multiple ways (numerical, represented by dots, ten frames) to promote flexible thinking.

As we explore our math manipulatives, children are beginning to notice the different attributes of each object. Children have played games that require them to look closely and find a matching attribute. Button Match-up and Attribute Block Match-up are two games that the children have played where they are matching one or more characteristics of their partner’s button or block. They were challenged to find one that wasn’t exactly the same!

Now in the second math unit, we continue to develop a strong number sense in counting as well as focus on comparing lengths and quantities in a set. By the end of the year, students will be very comfortable with numbers 0-20, able to perform simple addition and subtraction, measure, compare, sort, classify, compose and decompose 2-D and 3-D shapes, and more!

You can keep the math activities going at home. Below are just a few ideas:

  • Count out napkins or plates before setting the table.
  • Count the stairs as you walk up them.
  • Count the number of objects (cars, dogs, signs) you see as you walk down the street.
  • Sort a box of toys using an attribute of your child’s choice.
  • Use pennies and a deck of cards to see if your child can build towers of that may without falling over.

More about the kindergarten math curriculum:

Mustard Seed follows the TERC Investigations curriculum for mathematics. Math skills begin with classifying and counting tasks. Graphs and measurement skills enter the classroom as students need to communicate and understand quantity. Composing and decomposing numbers in different ways develops the concepts of addition and subtraction. Geometry. Data. Probability. Math is a dynamic study and the students will always be active, using manipulatives, games, and movement in their experience of math in kindergarten.

Abby Liu

Former Director of Marketing and Communications

Abby Liu was the Director of Marketing and Communications from Sept. 2018-August 2021 and was an employee of Mustard Seed School for over 14 years. She’s the parent of two Mustard Seed School alumni. She's seen the impact of a Mustard Seed education from the early preschool days all the way up to eighth grade and beyond, and thoroughly enjoys sharing the Mustard Seed School story to this day.

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