In Their Voices (Part 2)

This is the first in the series of blog posts that was written in conjunction with an early learning professional employed at one of our partnering Head Start preschool programs. Corin Villagomez has been a Head Start teacher for three years and she works with three and four-year-olds in a full-day program. She will be earning her Bachelor’s degree in Child Development from Fresno Pacific University in March 2018 and intends to continue her education beyond graduation. She is a mother of three young children and wishes to increase the academic success of her students by increasing intentional mathematics instruction and opportunities in her classroom. In her first blog post, Corin shares how she helps a student to complete a puzzle through play. Corin is actually helping the student to develop spatial relationship skills. According to Dr. Sarah H. Eason and Dr. Susan C. Levine from the University of Chicago, “Spatial reasoning is a critical skill that develops significantly in early childhood” (Spatial Reasoning: Why Math Talk Matter).

So, what is spatial reasoning? Spatial reasoning abilities include being able to think about how objects look from a different viewpoint. For example, what does a rectangle look like when rotated? What does a three-dimensional object look like from the top? According to Drs. Eason and Levine, students who are able to “mentally picture and manipulate objects…predicts success in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields.”

Thank you, Corin, for sharing your story and for “doing the math” in your classroom. Stay tuned for more “In Their Voice” blog posts from early learning teachers in Fresno County.

Puzzles, Perseverance and Proof that Spatial Relationships Begin at an Early Age by Corin Villagomez

While I was working with several children in a preschool classroom, 4-year-old “Rachel” discovered a new alphabet floor puzzle on the puzzle shelf. This puzzle had about 50 pieces, which is considered challenging for most children in this age group. Rachel asked me for assistance to put the puzzle together. Since this was a new puzzle, Rachel was excited and exclaimed, “I want to work on it, teacher! I need help; can you help me?” I was excited and saw this as teachable moment about spatial reasoning. I responded, “Yes, Rachel, when we work on puzzles with a lot of pieces, we have to start with the corners.” I showed Rachel what the corner looked like and had the following conversation with her:

Me: This is a corner; it has two straight edges.

Rachel: Look, teacher, I found a straight edge. [Holds up a piece with one straight edge]

Me: That will work too. We can also make the frame of the puzzle by looking for the straight edges.

Rachel located pieces with curved and straight edges.

Rachel: What about these ones, teacher?

Me: Yes, let’s look at the picture of the puzzle on the box and see where these pieces go. Look at

the picture, can you match the colors of this piece to this one?

Rachel: Yes, Teacher, I found another one; this one goes with this!

she matches two pieces to form the kite image

Several other children came and attempted to put some pieces together. The other students were able to make a few matches but left the activity a short time later. Rachel persevered to complete the 50 –piece alphabet puzzle. Upon completing the puzzle, she proudly examined her accomplishment. She continued to look at the puzzle and soon exclaimed, “Look teacher, there’s the R for my name.”

In this ordinary activity with Rachel, I learned how I can be intentional in giving students opportunities to develop spatial relationships throughout the day, as well as, incorporate math terms such as edge, curves, corner, short, long, few, many, etc.