Making a Difference in the New School Year

Welcome back to the 2017-18 school year! In early learning classrooms across the nation, thousands of 3-5 year-old children are excited to start school. There is wonderment about what this mysterious concept of “going to school” and “learning” means. Their new teachers had officially returned a week earlier, reviewed the enrollment roster, and filled a garbage bag with cellophane from classroom supplies. Many early learning teachers contacted the parents to introduce themselves and had a meet and greet with the children in the newly cleaned and decorated classroom.

The new year is exciting for us at the AIMS Center as well. On Wednesday, August 2, the AIMS Early Math research associates presented a full-day inservice to more than 325 Fresno EOC Head Start Pre-K staff members. The AIMS Center and Head Start established a partnership two years ago and together we began the journey to learn more about how young children come to know math. By the end of our day together, both AIMS and Head Start staff had a renewed sense of dedication to changing the lives of young children.  By increasing the intentional math instruction and opportunities this will help raise the percentage of children who achieve academic success in later years in many curricular areas, not just math. The teachers were reminded of a national study that indicated that less than 3% of the instruction time in a standard 3.5 hour pre-k program is spent on math, which amounts to less than 5 minutes a day. It takes more time than that to line up for recess.

The research associates, led by our senior researcher, Paul Reimer, presented on the following four research-based topics with the mantra that “Teaching is Listening.”

Mathematizing the Day

Elizabeth Gamino provided opportunities to explore existing curriculum and daily routines to optimize children’s mathematical experiences and promote the mathematics in children’s routines. She provided creative ways to graph that included the use of a balance for binary questions, estimating height with Legos, spatial reasoning with pattern blocks, and incorporating the math in many early literacy books.

Mathematical Play

Aileen Rizo provided an interactive session that allowed teachers to explore research-based ways that children can joyfully engage in meaningful counting experiences through authentic play.

Spatial Patterns

Paul Reimer shared the constructivist theory and explained what spatial patterns are, why they are important, and how to promote them in an early learning classroom. He discussed the importance of recognizing finger patterns, dot patterns, and being able to subitize collections. In addition, during his keynote presentation, Paul provided the many researched-based benefits of providing opportunities for early math.

What to Notice about Children’s Counting

I addressed the number word sequence and its progression and how that progression can be seen in the preschool classroom. I also focused on ways teachers can begin to notice and interpret children’s stating of the number word sequence to support their mathematical development. Math is like reading: every child comes to it with different experiences and understandings.

At the end of each session, we asked the teachers what their biggest takeaway was and what they would like to try in their classrooms this year. To my ECE colleagues, I challenge you to ask yourself the same questions every day. When it comes to early math, the most important thing we can do is give children opportunities to learn early mathematical concepts through play.

Have a banner 2017-18 year, make a difference, and remember to “do the math!”

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