The truth is, we do not “teach” preschool math. Math is not something we do to children! Math is all around us and is discovered by preschool children when they are provided with materials that encourage them to explore and learn about the world around them!
Preschool math is learned through hands-on activities and is ALL about your planning and not your teaching!
We can help children to rote count or memorize numbers, shapes and more however, they are memorizing names we’ve given to those symbols. They are not learning what those symbols mean or how they work if we help them memorize with flash cards or by rote counting the calendar every day.
Don’t believe me? If you have calendar time each day, ask each child, at the end of the day, which number of the month it is. Chances are, less than 20% of your preschoolers will remember the number, let along the name of the month. This is because we are teaching these things out of context – without a real-world connection that has meaning to them.
Think about what happens when someone tells us a lot of information about a topic we know little about. We remember some things but the rest is forgotten. It never makes it from our short-term memory to our long-term memory. In order for our brains to retain information it has to have meaning in context to us or it doesn’t make the cut to long-term memory! This is true of adults. This is also true of children.
There are 5 core preschool math areas which include 17 preschool math process skills! The best way to plan for them is to provide activities that help children use materials that support the learning of the skills!
Here is a summary of Math areas and skills:
Area 1 is Numbers and Operations and includes skills such as number sense, counting, one-to-one correspondence, numbers and symbols.
Area 2 is Geometry and Spatial Sense and includes shapes and spatial sense learning (under, over, next to, etc.)
Area 3 is Measurement and includes learning about weight, length, height, volume, temperature and time.
Area 4 is Patterns and Algebraic Thinking and includes exploring patterns, parts and wholes.
Area 5 is Data and includes ways to display and organize data such as sets, comparing, classifying seriation (putting things in its set order, as with puzzles or parts of a story), graphing and creating symbols and groups. As you can guess, this is a higher-level math skill.
As you can see, teaching preschool math is more than counting to 20 and recognizing numbers and shapes!
With so many math skills, how and where do we even start to provide children with the materials they need to develop all these skills? There are SO many ways including loose parts, making playdough, cooking, file folder games just to name a few. For a breakdown of each of these areas and ideas on how to provide your preschoolers with what they need to develop these skills,