Mathematics in a pre-k classroom is EVERYWHERE! Math content and practices can be incorporated throughout the daily curriculum --- during both teacher-guided and child-initiated learning times. Mathematics can be taught through teacher-guided experiences during large and small group times, meals and snacks, and transitions from one activity to another. Mathematics can also be incorporated into children’s play during child-initiated experiences in learning centers such as blocks, manipulatives, dramatic play, art, library, science, music and movement, and outdoors. When teachers plan curriculum themes, projects, or units---math can be incorporated into the learning experiences that support the topic of study.
Even though mathematics can be supported in a variety of content disciplines and during the day’s scheduled time blocks, the teacher must be very intentional in her teaching. Children do learn through exploration and inquiry, but need the guidance and support of the knowledgeable teacher who designs a challenging learning environment, plans appropriate learning experiences, and knows the right questions to ask children to advance their mathematical knowledge and skills.
The teacher is the key to success. The teacher needs to “see” math opportunities throughout the curriculum. Here are some samples of teaching strategies that teachers can employ as they go through the day with young children.
The pre-k teacher CAN:
Model counting of small collections and guide children’s counting in everyday situations, emphasizing that we use one counting word for each object.
Tell real-life stories involving numbers and a problem. Ask “how many” questions (e.g., how many are left? How many are there now? How many did they start with? How many were added?)
Show children the use of objects, finders, counting on, guessing, and checking to solve problems.
Introduce and label a wide variety of shapes in a variety of positions.
Construct shapes with children and talk about their features.
Use comparing words to model and discuss measuring (“This book feels heavier than that block. I wonder if this block tower is taller than the desk?”)
Invite children to sort and organize collected materials by color, shape, size, etc. Ask them to compare groups to find which group has the most.
Adapted from Learning Paths and Teaching Strategies Chart in Promoting Good Beginnings: Early Childhood Mathematics. NAEYC/NCTM Joint Position Statement, 2002, updated 2010.