“From the ages of 3 through 6, children need many experiences that call on them to relate their knowledge to the vocabulary and conceptual frameworks of mathematics – in other words, to ‘mathematize’ what they intuitively grasp.” (NCTM/NAEYC 2002, p.16)
So what does it mean to “mathematize”? Mathematize is defined as:
- To regard or treat (a subject or problem) in mathematical terms.
- To reason in a mathematical manner.
- The act of interpreting or expressing mathematically, or the state of being considered or explained mathematically.
Simply stated, mathematizing is bringing out the math in what children are doing
Math is a lifelong tool which children and adults use everyday.
- We estimate lengths and distances – how long will it take me to drive across town?
- We notice differences in quantity – which bag holds more?
- We move our bodies successfully in new environments – the bathroom is down the hallway, second door to your right, I parked my car on the 4th floor of the parking structure next to the elevator.
As adults we unconsciously mathematize our environments every day, so let’s do the same for our young ones.
These are some simple ways to begin mathematizing with your children:
- Emphasize math concepts and relationships.
- Use mathematical language.
- Make comments, ask and answer questions, and pose problems.
- Provide a variety of materials and tools with which to explore math ideas.
In preschool we have many things to count: the number of children in the room or in a group, the number of dolls in the playhouse, the number of blocks used to build structures, the number of forks, cups, napkins, and plates when setting up the lunch table, and so much more. By providing children with opportunities to count we are having them think more precisely and helping them to quantify things. Eventually we will hear our children say things like, “I see three flowers,” rather than, “I see flowers”.
We can also present collections of the same objects allowing children to engage in conversations about “more” or “less”, which will further lead them to answer “how many more” and “how many less” questions. Children will be able to compare and precisely determine how many more or less are needed for the two collections to be equal. We may begin to hear children say things such as, “This pile needs five more bears to be the same as that one,” or “This one has three less than that one,” or “If I take away two, they will be the same size.”
These are just a few ways to begin mathematizing your existing early childhood classroom environment. Early math makes a difference!
Comment on this blog to share how you are mathematizing your classroom.