Friday, August 8, 2008

Algebra in the Museum?!

Algebra in the early years establishes the necessary groundwork for ongoing and future mathematics learning. -Jennifer Taylor-Cox

Recently we discussed the recently re-opened Math Connections neighborhood and how it highlights many math concepts, including algebra. But what does algebra look like at DCM?

In the article "Algebra in the Early Years? Yes!" author Jennifer Taylor-Cox describes the central ideas of algebra and illustrates ways they can be applied to young children's activities and experiences. These concepts, "enhance children's natural interest in mathematics and their disposition to use it to make sense of their physical and social worlds."

The central ideas of algebra that are described within the article are also the core concepts of the many exhibits and activities found in DCM's Math Connections neighborhood. Below are some exerpts taken from Taylor-Cox's article, describing each central idea. We have also described how children can explore these four ideas inside Math Connections at DCM.

Central Idea #1: Patterns

"'Recognizing, describing, extending, and translating patterns'"

In Math Connections, children can explore symmetry, create patterns with shape and color or create 2-D or 3-D patterns.

Try this: Encourage children to point to each color or shape as they "read" patterns throughout the neighborhood. For example: red, blue, red, blue, red, blue.

Central Idea #2: Mathematical Situations and Structures

"'Experiences with mathematical situations and structures through representations and analyses of equality'"

Children can explore representations and the concept of equality in Math Connections.

Try this: As you explore the neighborhood, use words like equal/not equal, same/different, more/less, balanced/unbalanced.

Central Idea #3: Models of quantitative relationships

"'Explore models of quantitative relationships in a real-life context"

Throughout the neighborhood, children can push individual or sets of beads or manipulatives together to represent different values.

Try this: As you play with manipulatives, narrate the child's actions. You might say, You pushed 5 red beads and 2 white beads; that's 7 beads! Ask questions like, What other ways can you make 7?

Central Idea #4: Change

"'The understanding that most things change over time, that such changes can be described mathematically, and that changes are predictable'"

In Math Connections, children can explore change related to size, shape and measurement.

Try this: Encourage children to use words like bigger/smaller, shorter/taller to describe objects, structures or creations. You might ask, How many blocks tall is your tower?

Tell us about a moment you have shared with a child who was thinking "algebraically" as they played at DCM!

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