Math in Early Childhood: 6 Strategies for Teaching Math Throughout the Day

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Hour-long lessons? Asking students to work quietly at their desks? Not in early childhood!

Effective preschool teachers have perfected the art of infusing learning throughout their day so students can learn in continuous, small chunks while engaging in hands-on activities. Our latest video series, created in partnership with Development and Research in Early Math Education (DREME), features six engaging lessons that build on young children’s mathematical thinking. These videos do an amazing job at getting us to rethink what is possible in early childhood math.

While we were filming these lessons, we got a chance to capture six strategies that can be used to teach math throughout the day. These strategies get kids moving, connecting, and building understanding. As you watch, think about which strategies you would like to adapt for use in your classroom.

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Building on Young Children’s Mathematical Thinking

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Children, even the very young, engage with the world in mathematically-rich ways. As researchers and professional development facilitators in mathematics education and early childhood education, we have the privilege and joy of spending time in early childhood settings and engaging with those who teach our youngest students.

Through our collaborations with early childhood educators, we get to learn how teachers leverage both formal and informal classroom spaces to spark mathematical engagement, listen to children’s mathematical thinking, and enrich their budding mathematical ideas. Our partnership with Teaching Channel helped us to capture some of the complex work of learning and teaching in early childhood classrooms.

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STEM in Early Learning

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When you think about STEM, you might think about high school students doing an egg drop design challenge or middle schoolers building model roller coasters. But even our youngest students are ready to engage in STEM.

In our latest video series, created in partnership with Fairfax Futures, we explore what STEM looks like in early childhood. Young children naturally engage in the scientific method. They observe the world around them, make predictions, try out ideas, and revise their thinking. To help students develop these key concepts, the teachers in these videos present students with developmentally-appropriate math and science activities. They root their lessons in connections to literature and their students’ home lives, asking open-ended questions to help students develop understanding.

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Modeling In Science: K-2

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This three-video series provides a glimpse inside kindergarten and 1st/2nd-grade classrooms that are developing scientific models to make sense of and more deeply explain a real-world phenomenon over time.

The kindergartners in Kaia Tomokiyo’s class at Southern Heights Elementary School in Seattle, Washington, are seeking to understand how a puddle on the grass appears and disappears over the course of a day. Fallon King’s first and second graders at Cedarhurst Elementary School in Burien, Washington, are exploring how one apple tree works with its ecosystem to create another apple tree a distance away from itself.

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Using Interactive Read Alouds To Support Scientific Modeling

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In science classrooms, we want to provide strategic opportunities for students to learn from text and support them as they obtain, evaluate, and communicate information. Scientific interactive read aloud lessons create a space in the day for educators to integrate the Next Generation Science Standards and English Language Arts Common Core standards, using picture books in support of the practice of scientific modeling.

Science picture books can tap into your own and your students’ storytelling and personal narrative styles, while introducing ideas and evidence from beyond the classroom to consider.

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First Steps Towards Emotional Literacy

At the beginning of the year, my kindergarteners reminded me of kittens just beginning to open their eyes. They were just starting to become aware of the world and, as egocentric little beings, had trouble seeing the world through anyone else’s perspective. Sometimes they had trouble even understanding that others were out there.

As the year went on, my kindergarteners’ eyes started to open. We did a lot of work with the Mosaic Project, an amazing nonprofit devoted to teaching students community building and peacemaking skills. One of my main goals as a teacher was to help my students be empathetic and kind. But how do you teach empathy to students who can barely see beyond themselves? (This song should inspire you!)

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Lessons from Early Learners: Cultivating a Sense of Wonder

Being around young children can be exhausting. With questions like, “What is that?” and “Why is it like that?” they act like they’ve never seen the world before. And oftentimes they haven’t! Young kids approach the world with a wide-eyed sense of wonder, constructing meaning from every new experience.

I’ve spent much of my life straddling the world of young children and the world of adults. While there are many things young children can learn from adults (how to tie shoes, how to read, how to get along nicely), I’ve also learned that there are many things adults can learn from young children. Teaching young children taught me to see the world through new eyes, embrace my curiosity, and to focus on fun.

Early Childhood EducationTeaching Channel recently partnered with First 5 San Francisco to create our first batch of early childhood videos. In these videos, we see children questioning, wondering, and working together to make sense of the world around them. When we allow students a chance to wonder freely, we help them become passionate and driven learners.

Here are three ways to cultivate a sense of wonder across grade levels:

Ask Questions, Find Answers

Conversations with young children burst with questions. By building instruction around students’ questions, we can create buy-in and excitement around learning. In this lesson, Nadia Jaboneta has her students share hypotheses about bugs. After sharing their hypotheses, students get a chance to test their ideas and provide evidence for why they did or did not work. It’s important to not only allow students a chance to ask their questions, but also give them a chance to find answers.

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15 Resources: Early Childhood Education

Here at Teaching Channel, we’re excited to add early childhood education (ECE) videos to our library. To support our new collection of early childhood videos, we went on the hunt for helpful ECE resources. Learn more about these organizations and enjoy some free resources.

Early Childhood Education Organizations

1. National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC): The NAEYC is dedicated to providing educational equality for children from birth to age eight. Here’s a link to research, including several publications focusing on professional development in ECE, ideas for lessons, and a peer-reviewed journal on ECE topics. More professional development links here.

Best Practices in ECE

2. First 5 California: A California initiative created by a statewide referendum that designs programs tailored to children ages 0-5. Programs include health and nutrition, literacy and language development. The parents’ page has activities, tips, and information that walks parents through the stages of early childhood development.

3. Dept of Education: You will find lots of great links here to ECE programs like Head Start and others promoting literacy, health and nutrition, learning through educational TV programming, etc. Links to resources for parents, teachers and administrators, as well as PD for teachers and links to research.

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Video Playlist: Early Childhood Education

ECE Best Practices

Through a grant from the Evelyn & Walter Haas, Jr. Foundation, Teaching Channel and First 5 San Francisco teamed up to film six diverse preschools across San Francisco. The resulting video series focuses on early literacy, dual language learners, science, math, social-emotional learning, and strategies for early childhood education. We’re excited to expand our Teaching Channel library to include best practices for teaching this important age group.

Early Literacy

Early Literacy

Interactive Read Aloud
Sandra Davis engages her students in an interactive read aloud, asking comprehension questions and explaining new vocabulary. Watch how students  build understanding by engaging in a dramatic reenactment of the story.

Developing Literacy Skills Through Storytelling
Sandra Davis dictates her students’ writing as they tell the stories behind their art. As they work together, Ms. Davis develops her students’ phonological awareness by pointing out the sounds and letters that she is writing.

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