You don't need to teach math by writing things on a whiteboard while children sit at their desks taking notes and trying to follow along. You can use real-world experiences and activities to help children understand simple math concepts. A way to provide real-world math experiences to children is by having a math center for them, which will let children manipulate materials to develop foundational ideas in mathematics.
In STEM Play: Integrating Inquiry into Learning Centers,you can find activities to do in a math center that will not only help children’s math skills, but also help them in other areas involving literacy, problem solving, science, technology, engineering, physical development, and social interactions.
What I Like About Me!
This activity will help children celebrate their differences while they think about numbers that are related to them.
- Developing number sense
- Comparing items
- Using emergent writing
- Developing social-emotional skills
What to Do
- In advance, use chart paper and write the following:
- My smile is ____ cubes.
- My feet are ____ cubes.
- My legs are ____ cubes.
- Gather children before center time and ask, “Do you have something special that you like about yourself? Raise your hand if you do.” Allow children to share what is special about them.
- Note that everyone is special and different in your class. Tell children that they can explore how they are special and different by finding their special numbers when they are working in the math center.
- Ask them to think about these questions: How tall are you? How big is your smile? Do you have big feet?
- Let children know that they can measure themselves in the math center using cubes to find their special numbers.
- Show them the sentences about measurement on the chart paper, and tell them you would like for them to measure themselves and record their special numbers.
- Ask children for ideas about other special features they would like to record using numbers, and offer to write those on the chart paper. Ask children to help you sound out the new words.
- Children can copy the sentences on paper to fill in the blanks, or you can provide photocopies with the sentences and blanks.
My Family and Me!
Children will draw a family picture and connect it to math.
- Understanding relationships among self, family, and community
- Exploring visual arts
What to Do
- To introduce the day’s activity in the math center, show children a family picture and tell a story related to it, such as: “Here I have a picture of my family. I grew up with five sisters and one brother, along with my mother and father. That means there were nine people in my family! Also, I was the smallest person in my family; everyone else was bigger than me.”
- Tell children that in the math center they can draw or paint a picture of their family. Note that when they are finished with their pictures, you would like for them to begin to think about the math in their families. They might think about how many adults and how many children there are. They might want to decide if their parents are really big compared to how small they are. Ask for other ideas about things in their families that relate to math.
- Note that you will come by the math center and check out children’s pictures and hear about their families.