Introducing mathematical concepts using technology in the early years

Girl counting with an abaccusMath in early ages has been a topic of concern by many during the last years.  Student’s performance has revealed an overall level of mathematical proficiency below what is desired and needed (TIMMS, 1999). One of the biggest problems in the early childhood classroom while introducing mathematical concepts is that they have random appearances and those who have a curriculum for math tend to cover many mathematical topics during a period of time that results in superficial and uninteresting children (NAEYC, 2002). One of the things that the National Association for Young Children  recommends  is to infuse mathematical concepts throughout the day and provide children with time to explore mathematical concepts.  Below you will find mathematical skills children ages 3 to 6 should be familiar with.  I will provide you with a summary of the skill and how you can use some technology tools to provide more mathematical experiences in the classroom.  Remember that technology should be used as a tool to support your teaching goals and extend learning by providing a balance between activities with embedded technology and those without technology. Note that at early stages it is important that you provide children with concrete experiences.

Number and Operations:  Through these activities children should demonstrate understanding of one-to-one correspondence, count sets of objects, count numbers in sequence, and perform simple addition and subtraction using concrete objects.

  • If you have a video camera or digital recorder, you can record children singing number songs and make a class number song CD or video.  By doing this, you can involve children in a project in which all can contribute by singing, making the label art for the CD or DVD cover and flyers for the release of the media. Also, by recording children while counting or singing the songs, you might have information you can use during your assessment and observations. If you have a PC, you can use the Sound Recorder on your computer, if you have a Mac, Garage Band will do the job.
  • When students are learning numbers, counting something that really interests them is more motivating than counting circles or numbers on a chart.  If you have a digital camera in your classroom, you can take pictures of children’s belongings or classroom materials.  As a family connection activity, you can tell families to bring 10 items to take pictures of or invite families to take pictures 10 items that the student finds particularly interesting at home. Then, at home and school, children can practice counting in a meaningful way that integrates technology.
  • Attendance chart with pictures:  As students enter the classroom in the morning, they can identify their cards (with picture and name) and place it in an attendance chart.  When discussing the attendance chart, you can count as group how many children are present and how many are absent.

Patterns: Through these activities children should discriminate patterns from non-patterns, produce patterns and sort, order, compare and describe objects.

  • When children are learning to sort, they are learning where things belong. Begin by adding labels (with picture and words) to the items in your classroom.  This will not only help students know where things belong, but how to be more independent in the classroom.  This process will make it easier for students to apply the same concept of “organization” to another activity like having baskets for small triangles, big triangles or blue markers, red markers.  This activity will help integrate this concept throughout the classroom instead of having isolated sorting activities.
  • For comparing and contrasting, you can project pictures of different birds, cans, or other items (using a projector or SMART board) and have children create observational drawings. Then, provide the opportunity to discuss observations.

Geometry: The concepts included in the geometry are two-dimensional shapes (circles, rectangles, etc.), and their characteristics.

  • As children are learning about different shapes it is important that they learn about 2D and 3D shapes. To develop this knowledge, you can create labels for your block and manipulative area referring to different shapes like triangle, square, etc.  You can provide two baskets with options to sort with labels that help children understand what you are asking for (small, big or blue, red, etc.)
  • Use pictures or images to draw attention to characteristics of the shapes.  While looking at pictures of different shapes, ask children open-ended questions like “what do you think it is for?”  “What do you think we can do with it?”
  • As children create their structures on the block area, take pictures of them, discuss them, project them and have other children ask questions about the structures. Relate child-created structures with the shapes discussed in class. Create a picture book of block structures created by the class and place it in the block area to inspire other students (Puerling, 2012).

Measurement: The concepts include measurement quantities of length, weight, and height. Comparing objects in size, weight and comparing and analyze data.

  • Many teachers use non-traditional ways of measurement with young children like using a rope or paper clips to measure.  You can use YouTube videos to introduce children to new measurement tools. Also, you can use a Ryobi Laser Pointer measurement tool that you can find at Home Depot for $12.97.  This will give the opportunity to children to explore different ways to measure distance and objects.
  • To measure weight, most teachers use a beam balance scale.  Beam balances are only used in specific places like labs or grocery stores.  Most families these days own a digital scale. You can add a digital scale to your class, so children can start understanding purposeful ways to use measurement on a daily basis.  Most digital scales are sensitive to anything that weighs more than a pound.  Also, if you go on a field trip to the grocery store, you can talk about the beam balance and how it is used to measure and determine the price of things.

Note: Please, feel free to email me or tweet me if you disagree or agree with anything in here. Also, if you think I should add anything else. :) Let’s learn together.

References:

National Association of Young Children (2012). Technology and Interactive Media as Tools in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8.

National Association of Young Children (2002). Early Childhood Mathematics: Promoting Good Beginnings.

Office of Early Learning (2011). Florida Early Learning and Developmental Standards for Four-Year-Olds. Talahassee: n.d.

Puerling, B. (2012). Teaching in the digital age. (1 ed., p. 41). MN: RedLeaf Press.

Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (1999)