Early Math

Math is Fun, Math is Important, Math is Beautiful

You is kind, you is smart, you is important,” is a quote from the movie “The Help,” and it provides us with a valuable message.  It taught us that we are valued, worthy and loveable. These three simple statements may influence us to reflect on the way we perceive ourselves and those around us. These three statements, nine words, can change mindsets.

What if this quote was rewritten to state Math is fun, math is important, math is beautiful? Could these three simple statements start a movement to change children’s and adults’ mindsets that math is something important to understand and know and that all should value?  Could this diminish the “I hate math” or “I am not good at math” statements that are commonly stated by many people, which includes but is not limited to, teachers, nurses, executive directors, cashiers, and sales personnel? Would it change the conversations that some adults have with children? We would no longer hear comments such as “It’s okay, I wasn’t good at math either” or “I know, math was hard for me too!” which I’ve often heard, expressed by parents, teachers, and caregivers.

“Math is fun.” How many of us can readily say this? How many of us feel this way towards math?  Do you enjoy a good game of cards or playing board games? Games like Chutes and Ladders, Uno, Blackjack, Yahtzee, and Monopoly all promote mathematical thinking. Did you know completing puzzles or building with Legos, playing Battleship, Tetris, or Minecraft improves spatial reasoning? When adults and children engage in play through activities that promote math concepts, they don’t even realize the math they are engaging in and learning.

“Math is important” Math is needed to navigate our daily tasks, such as calculating our finances, maintaining a budget, cooking, shopping, constructing (DIY projects), estimating time and distance. Mathematics promotes qualities such as abstract and spatial thinking, problem-solving skills, critical thinking, ability to solve problems in various ways, making generalizations, communicating effectively (i.e., verbally, via representations and in writing), and analytic and reasoning skills.

Math is beautiful” The beauty of mathematics can be seen almost everywhere in our world. In nature, the golden ratio can be seen in the petals of flowers or in the flower head of a sunflower (my favorite), sea shells, pineapples, cauliflowers, hurricanes and spiral galaxies such as the Milky Way. I can find the aesthetic beauty of mathematics in many local architectural buildings, such as Fresno City Hall, Edison High School, Saint John’s Cathedral, and the Meux Home. Around the world, there is the Taj Mahal, Chichen Itza, and the Parthenon. Lest we not forget the arts, you can find the Golden Ratio in DaVinci’s Mona Lisa, Picasso’s use of geometry in his cubism period, Cezanne’s use of cubes, angles, spheres and cones, Escher’s mathematical illusions, and Aldo Spizzichino’s computer graphics.

Math is more than equations, formulas, expressions, linear functions, theorems, and proofs. Math makes up our world in ways we often do not think about because it is a natural part of our being.

Math is fun, math is important, math is beautiful.”


Ecosystems Have Histories

We recently had a visit from Emily Dilger, who is the lead of the Bay Area STEM Ecosystem project. Learning ecosystems are a way of thinking about the various experiences, environments, learners, and tools that exist across settings and contexts. As we gathered on several occasions to have conversations about the power of partnerships and… Continue Reading

Moving and Imagining: Spatial Presentation at Early Math Symposium 2018

On Friday, April 22, 2018, at the Early Math Symposium, AIMS associates engaged participants in three presentations on early mathematics. Wilma Hashimoto and I presented “What’s So Special About Spatial”. We presented this twice and had a great time interacting with the two groups. Our goal of the presentations was to inform our participants about… Continue Reading

Houston, We DON’T Have a Problem

The early math research associates at the AIMS Center for Math and Science have studied and written about the importance of spatial reasoning skills in the early learning classroom.  Our blogs have suggested ways teachers can promote spatial reasoning skills by having children learn directions on a grid mat, manipulate puzzle pieces, and create Lego… Continue Reading

Learning from Others – Deena Weisberg

Learning through play is an idea that is gaining much popularity in the field of education. Especially for young children, the use of play can harness a power of engagement that comes naturally to children. The characteristics of play that are productive for learning can prove to be an essential element in ensuring deep and… Continue Reading

Let Me Play

As many of you know for the last year, I have had the privilege of working with preschool-aged children on a weekly basis, watching them, interacting with them, and listening to them as they engaged in mathematical and other content daily.  As I reflect on my year spent with seventy-seven little ones, I am overcome… Continue Reading

Teachers as Learners, Learners as Teachers

In my previous post, I wrote about the ways teachers might engage with children during play. In particular, I highlighted Brent Davis’ explanation: “The teacher becomes a vital part of the action. Immersed in the play, the teacher too is a learner.” This post continues these ideas, with several specific references to readings that take… Continue Reading

Learning from Others – Nora Newcombe (Part 2)

In my last blog I introduced an expert researcher in the field of spatial reasoning, Dr. Nora Newcombe, and discussed the opportunity I had to interview her. Below are summaries of four of Dr. Newcombe’s articles that directly connect to our work and learning at the preschool level. Building Blocks for Developing Spatial Skills This… Continue Reading