Friday, October 26, 2012

Encouraging Math-Talk

Math is all around us.  There are countless opportunities during the day for children to hear new math words and deepen their understanding of math concepts. The more we talk about math and share our enjoyment of the experience with children, the better chance they have to build a positive attitude toward math learning and learning in general. 

Math-talk words are all around us. As you explain daily routines and experiences, you are discussing patterns. Numbers and operations are expressed when keeping score in a game using words like ahead and behind. Comparison words like big and small are beginning measurement talk. Take your pick, songs such as This Old Man or Five Little Pumpkins address numbers and counting.  Spatial relationships are introduced when you verbalize getting from one place to another.

Math-Talk Moments
  • Identify opportunities to use math-talk during your daily routines and experiences.
  • Make a list of math-talk words and phrases. Make a mental note of those words and use a few of the words frequently for a week. As time goes on, new math-talk words can be added. You may even post some on the wall and rotate.
  • Share your strategy with others. Others may have great ideas about math-talk too!

Information contained in this blog is borrowed from Spotlight on Young Children: Exploring Math (2012) published by the National Association for the Education of Young Children.  More, All Gone, Empty, Full: Math Talk with Infants and Toddlers—Every Day, in Every Way by Jan Greenberg.

Greenberg is a senior writer/training specialist with the Early Head Start National Resource Center, in Washington, DC.  Her past work includes product development, training and technical assistance, and teaching infants, toddlers and preschool children in regular and special education programs. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

It’s Good to be Curious: Hedda Sharapan visits DCM for the Annual Educator Open House

Many of you may fondly remember Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, the popular children’s show on PBS.  On October 1, DuPage Children's Museum brought the memory of Mr. Rogers to life with a visit from his longtime friend Hedda Sharapan. Sharapan worked closely with Fred Rogers beginning in 1966. Together they wrote books for children and parents and authored professional development materials for early childhood educators. Ms. Sharapan is now the Director of Early Childhood Initiatives with the Fred Rogers Company.

At DCM’s Educator Open House, Sharapan revisited the work of Rogers by sharing clips from Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood that incorporated learning through the use of tools. She explains:

I remember a reporter once came to Fred and said, “Why didn’t you spend more time on Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood with the ABCs, 123s, numbers?” And Fred said, “Because I’d rather give children the tools for learning. If we give them the tools, they will want to learn the facts.”

In the spirit of providing tools for learning, DCM will be opening a new exhibit to the public on October 27, 2012 called, How People Make Things, based on Mr. Rogers’  factory tours for children. It will be no surprise that this exhibit is borrowed from the Children’s Museum of Pittsburg—where Rogers was an advisor, a mentor and a friend.

Come visit the exhibit!  In the meantime, recapture some of your own memories by listening to Fred Rogers remixed...

You can sign up for the Fred Rogers Professional Development Newsletter here

Friday, October 12, 2012

Constuctivist Intentions: The Child-Adult Partnership with Self-Directed Experiences

Child gives dad the thumbs up!
The role of parents and caregivers in a child’s life is profoundly important. The adult-child relationship impacts many areas in a child's life showing to have a positive impact not only on a child's health and development, but also educational progress, as well as life choices. The bond that is created between a child and caring adult can have positive effects well into the teen years and beyond. 

On my own, investigating air & more!
Self-directed experiences,too, have been shown to have long-lasting effects on learning. Learning that is self-directed respects the interests and pace of the learner.  The caregiver becomes a facilitator who guides learning rather than teaches specific content. The facilitator/caregiver observes the child’s interests and then capitalizes on those interests by furthering discussion that encourages critical thinking.  If a child’s interest is drawing, painting or coloring, ask, “Why did you choose those colors/shapes?” or, “Tell me about                 .”  

Many children love water play!  While they are playing in a tub of water at a table or in a bath, include measuring cups or other containers and ask, “What happens when you fill the cup with a little water?  How about a lot?”  Encouraging a child to give a verbal explanation can go a long way in developing valuable thinking skills. 

These are just a couple of examples of the many things that you can do to nurture a child-adult partnership and encourage self-directed learning experiences.  Whether in a classroom or at home, try some activities that interest the children in your life—and know that the experiences you have can have a great impact on their development and learning for a lifetime!  

American Psychological Association, Parents and Caregivers Are Essential to Children’s Healthy Development at

National Education Association at

Search Institute, Family Assets at

Shaw, Benjamin with Neal Krause, Linda M. Chatters, Cathleen M Connell, and Berit Ingersoll-Dayton (2004), Emotional Support From Parents Early in Life, Aging, and Health.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Constructivist Intentions: Hands-on & Open-Ended

Young learners are infatuated with the world around them. Through direct experiences of visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory and gustatory perception (taste), young children experiment and learn. While DCM encourages all of these experiences, due to safety and other concerns in the public place, we can't provide them all!  But you can at home! It is important to consider and encourage a sensory experience that will help children draw conclusions about the world around them. In essence, the opportunity for learning across all ages increases when experiences engage multiple senses.

DCM is committed to exhibit and program planning that encourages multisensory exploration and leads to experiences that can result in many right answers.  Through open-ended experiences learners are encouraged to look at any concept through a lens that does not focus on one right or one wrong answer.  These kinds of experiences allow young ones to direct learning in their own way, in their own time and at their own pace—creating a lesson that is incredibly rewarding and memorable. Children can internalize these experiences which will allow them to return to the learned concepts and build on them later.

At DCM, we want learning to be involved in all experiences.  With learning in mind as well as a focus that is open-ended and hands-on, children can be encouraged to think critically, problem solve, gain competency through trial and error and much more. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Constructivist Intentions: Meaningful Experiences

Within the constructivist paradigm, there is an emphasis on the learner rather than teacher or facilitator. Constructivism tells us that the learner uses her or his environment to gain an understanding of concepts. At DCM, learner is translated to our audience—children 0 to 10 years of age and their caregivers. Meaningful interactions with exhibits that draw on a child’s interest and curiosity can lead to an environment more conducive to learning.  

In exhibit neighborhoods, the scientific method is constantly at play. Children are observing, predicting, experimenting and making conclusions with every interaction. The predictions and conclusions are difficult to see with a cursory look, yet we can see evidence of this when a child changes the way they interact with an exhibit through repeated experiences. Often, without a word spoken, new conclusions are drawn that are based upon previous experiences. When language is added and play is facilitated by an adult-child partnership, learning also promotes a literacy component that will develop a child’s language acquisition, definition and use of words. Whether guided or immersed in an environment that is prepared for learning, children can make connections that will benefit future learning.