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Rivers Children are Mathmaticians–All the Time!

May 25, 2022 | Kristen Jordan

In the Rivers Classroom, math is happening all the time!  Children get lots of practice with mathematical concepts, counting, and numbers.  Even if they don’t realized it, they are constantly engaging with math!  

Most days of school, we ask “How many children are here?”  “How many are missing today?” We estimate, count, then double check. We use our fingers to help check the count. 

We use a manipulatives (an object to represent something else), like pompoms to help keep track as we count. 

And then children try to identify the numeral that goes with the count.  Keeping track of what is being counted, and identifying the numeral are both important mathematical skills!  

There are many other times throughout our day when children are engaged in mathematical work, without it seeming like math at all.   When we sing and do rhymes and chants, the numbers may get bigger: one potato, 2 potato, 3 potato, four…”. Or the numbers may get smaller “5 green and speckled frogs, sat on a speckled log, eating some most delicious bugs. One jumped into the pool, where it was nice and cool. Then there were 3 green speckled frogs!”  We are counting and noticing increases and decreases. 

Sorting and organizing objects like buttons and coins requires children to practice foundational habits of math.

There are so many other places in our lives where numbers are used and practiced. While waiting for a turn on the spinner, count to 10 (often with help from teachers or friends) and then it will be your turn!

Lining up in order of age helps us to do some comparing and thinking about ordinal numbers (first, second, etc), which is a big part of mathematics.  Whose birthday comes first?  Who is taller than me?

How many ladybugs are there? (Yes, at last the mystery has been solved–ladybugs have emerged!)

Even when children are doing an observational drawing, or creating an insect or flower at the light table, they often must count. How many leaves are on the stem?  How many dots are on the ladybug?  They are practicing accuracy as they observe and translate the information.  

Sometimes this work even involves grouping and addition: How many legs does the ladybug have? Three on one side?  Three on the other?  How many all together?  The concept of symmetry is also involved here!

Another important foundational math concept is patterns, and most of the rhymes, chants and songs we do involve patterns.  In addition to listening for patterns in songs, we have been making patterns with our bodies.  Children choose their own pattern to make with their body, they demonstrate it, and then we all try to figure it out and copy it.  

“Clap, clap, knees, clap, clap, knees”

So much of math involves patterns.  Children have really been noticing and “reading” patterns in our clothing. There are a lot of stripes out there!

It can be tricky to figure out what is and what isn’t a pattern.  In order for something to be a pattern, it has to repeat over and over again.  Some patterns are very complicated!  We can see the pattern but it  might be be hard to “read”.

In addition to all of the daily work we do that involves numbers and mathematical concepts, the children have done a great deal of math work with the coins that we collected during Lent.  This work has incorporated many of the concepts and skills that we work on all the time: sorting, organizing, using patterns, counting, keeping track, double checking, grouping, and identifying numerals.  

After sorting each type of coin into groups.  Children counted the pennies.  They counted out 10 pennies, which were organized on a “ten frame”.   Then, the pennies were re-counted into a tiny cup. Then, children repeated the process 5 times, until they had 5 groups of 10 pennies.  That’s lots of counting practice!

This work also helps with conservation:  Understanding that the number of objects or quantity of something always remains the same no matter how it is arranged. Conservation is concept that may not fully develop until around age 7, but that doesn’t mean we don’t practice counting and re-counting!   

Once children had 5 groups of 10, they placed the 50 pennies into penny rolls. It was exciting to hold 50 cents in their hands, and then learn that two penny rolls made a whole dollar!

The coin counting from our Lenten project has been a real-world activity with meaning that the children have been very happy to help with.  The rest of the money will be pooled and counted together by others!

Although this project is finished, we will continue to engage in many other activities that involve numbers and mathematical concepts.  At home, you might find your own ways of incorporating math–it is such a big part of our daily lives!

Kristen Jordan

Teacher, Rivers Class

Kristen Jordan began helping at Mustard Seed School in 2006, after her daughter had been a student in the preschool. She substituted for many years in all grades; in 2011, she returned to the classroom and has been a teacher in The Nest ever since.

Prior to the birth of her daughter Clara, in 2002, Ms. Jordan worked in Brooklyn as a first grade teacher with the New York City Public Schools. During this time, her school collaborated with the Brooklyn Museum, and this work helped Ms. Jordan develop a real interest in the parallels between the process of making art and the process of writing in the classroom. She thoroughly enjoys teaching both art and literacy to preschoolers.

Ms Jordan’s background includes work with the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. While at Teachers College, she trained with esteemed educator and author Lucy Calkins. Early in her teaching career, Ms. Jordan did not think that she wanted to teach very young children but her view has changed! She now really enjoys and takes great interest in young children and their development.

Ms. Jordan enjoys reading, working out, hiking, cooking, and spending time with her daughter and family. Although she has lived on the East Coast for a very long time, as a native of Oregon, she really loves the mountains!

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