Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Math Comes in to Play Every Day!

Did you know that almost everything we do relies on some form of mathematical thinking? Think about when you serve a meal or set a table. How do you know where to set the plates or glasses or how many to use? To complete this task, we rely on our understanding of patterns, counting and estimation skills. Imagine riding a bicycle without understanding distance, balance, or spatial orientation. Without these skills, many of us might still need training wheels and a guide!

Math Connections = Play and Learning
At DCM, we understand how often math comes in to play throughout our lives and that it is important to provide opportunities for children to investigate, practice and reflect on math. According to the position statement, “Early Childhood Mathematics: Promoting Good Beginnings,” by exposing children to math concepts and models early on through hands-on explorations, experimentations and literature we better prepare them for the opportunities that await them! (National Association for the Education of Young Children and National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 2003)

To best provide children with opportunities to explore, experiment, discover and enjoy math concepts at their own pace, the Museum recently reopened its Math Connections neighborhood. Generously funded by the Tellabs Foundation, part of the neighborhood’s redevelopment included Museum staff consulting with math education experts and concluded with more than ten new exhibits.

The following are just a few of these new exhibits:

Crawl Through Kaleidoscope
Children discover multiplying patterns and symmetry as they climb or peek inside. Share how their reflections change as they move.

Wandering Loom & Twisting Loom
Ponder patterns of color as children weave or thread beads on each of the looms. "Count" out the pattern they have made by repeating each of the colors (red, black, red, black) or use the alphabet to describe them (ABAB).

Large Beam Balance

Children explore equality, comparison and measurement through large motor play. Ask questions like, Which side weighs more? or What happens when you put another block on the other side? Make sure to model safety by saying, Go slowly or Sit on your bottom.

Each of the exhibits in Math Connections addresses one or more of the following math concepts:

  • Measurement and balance - understanding size, length, width, capacity, weight, quantity, and equality
  • Algebra - understanding "patterns, mathematical situations and structures, quantitative relationships, and change" (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 2000)
  • Counting and estimation - understanding numbers, one-to-one correspondence
  • Geometry and spatial understanding - ability to visualize relationships of objects in space; understanding words like: up/down, more/less, around, top/bottom, etc.
  • Sorting and classifying - understand categorization of things with shared attributes, understand same/different
    Source: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. 2000. Principles and standards for school mathematics. Reston, VA: NCTM

How Can I Make the Most of My Visit to Math Connections?
As you explore the new Math Connections neighborhood, be sure to talk to your children about their experiences. Research affirms that even seemingly trivial instances of "math talk" can demonstrate improvement in preschoolers’ math skills. Don't know where to start? Talking about math is easier than you might think!

On your next visit to Math Connections, try to:
  • Use descriptive words related to quantity, size, space or number. You might try using the words: more/less, large/small, tall/short, wide/narrow, few/many.

  • Reference the signage found in each of the Math Connection areas. Each sign provides visitors with information on the exhibits and how to nurture children's connections to math as you play.

Source: Klibanoff, Raquel S.; Levine, Susan C.; Huttenlocher, Janellen; Vasilyeva, Marina; Hedges, Larry V. “Preschool children's mathematical knowledge: The effect of teacher "math talk." Developmental Psychology. January, 2006. Volume 42(1). 59-69.

Stay Tuned!
DuPage Children's Museum is enjoyed by visitors young and old! In a future post, we will discuss some ways to challenge school age children and nurture their development throughout the Museum's neighborhoods. We also will share some ways to extend the fun that happens at DCM to home.

Share your ideas on how you make the most of your visits to DCM! Join the conversation by clicking on the word “comments” below!

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