Thursday, December 22, 2011

Get Those Duck in a Row

Maybe your child’s got her stuffed animals all lined up from biggest to smallest. Or maybe he’s told you that his best friend can jump almost--but not quite--as high as he can, and that another friend can hardly get off the ground. If so, you’re an eyewitness to the emergence of an essential math skill, one that your child will have plenty of opportunities to explore at DCM: seriation.

Seriation means arranging items according to how much of a particular quality they have. We seriate by size, weight, volume and many other characteristics.

Why is it important for children to develop seriation skills? Seriation builds young children’s understanding of number concepts: Which item comes first? Which comes second? It helps children make sense of math by learning to think about information in a systematic way and to understand patterns.

It’s something adults do automatically, but young children have to figure out. It takes time. Children who have just grasped the whole idea of size, for example, will find the concept of degrees of size pretty complicated. If they see four red blocks of various sizes, they’ll be likely to pick out only the largest and the smallest at first. In fact, many very young children understand size seriation best in familiar terms—daddy, mommy, big kid, baby. Gradually, with time and experience, arranging objects in serial order becomes easier.

On a visit to the Museum, you might see your child investigating seriation as she fits one cup inside another while playing in WaterWays, listens to louder and softer sounds in the Room for Rhythm or compares his shadow to yours in the Shadow Playground.

At home, there are lots of everyday opportunities to explore seriation with your child. As you sort laundry, your child might decide how to arrange three socks from shortest to longest. Add more lengths as he becomes better at it. Then suggest arranging them from longest to shortest. If your child is having fun with the idea of seriation, you can also play with:
  • Height: Line family members up from tallest to shortest.
  • Color: Pick up sheets of paint chips at the hardware store. Cut them in strips and play a game of arranging them from darkest to lightest.
  • Thickness: For a snack, slice a banana in varying thicknesses.

Guest Blogger: Sally Nurss, M.Ed. has worked directly with children, parents, and teachers for over 25 years. She is a former preschool director and also a DCM Early Childhood Specialist. Sally and her husband, Jim, now own a bookstore, Our Town Books, in Jacksonville, Illinois.

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