Our lives are filled with solving mathematical problems which we never stop to think about, such as
- Do I have sufficient food in the fridge for dinner tonight?
- How much food do I need to order to feed all my guests?
- Can I get from work to nursery in time to fetch my child?
The answers to these questions are based on having a good understanding of mathematical concepts, knowing how to estimate and calculate. These are skills we use automatically as adults which have been developed from babyhood through all of our mathematical experiences.
At the Wandsworth Preschool we provide our children with high quality experiences to foster mathematical development and understanding. Number and numeral recognition, shape recognition, measurement, patterning and representation of data, all form part of our mathematical curriculum.
As with literacy we plan learning experiences to foster early mathematical skills from the day children start with us. The baby who is reaching out to hold and feel the ball is making a start at understanding a circle and positioning. The toddler who is building a tower of different shaped blocks is learning to count, order and starting to get a sense of how different shapes work together. The two- year- old creating a line of red bricks and one of blue is beginning to match and become aware of similarities and differences. Through counting objects wherever they go and singing number rhymes and songs our young children learn to count the stairs, the steps they are taking and more to come to understand numbers.
Our qualified Early Years teachers focus on developing early mathematicians through planned, stimulating, age appropriate activities and the use of accurate mathematical language in their discussions with children. They plan to help children move from rote counting to one to one correspondence so that they can associate a number with an object and numeral recognition. The nursery rooms have meaningful illustrations of numerals so that the symbols become familiar to our children. Skills such as addition and subtraction develop through using real objects and routines during the day such as setting the table for lunch. Patterning, the regular arrangement of objects shapes or numbers is important in mathematics, literacy and science. Recognising and understanding patterns in music and creating patterns in art as well as ordering objects such as threading beads, cars or blocks in patterns all lead to children coming to understand the rules of patterns. Being able to count odd and even numbers, for example, relies on this understanding.
Our children become familiar with two- and three- dimensional objects and learn their characteristics (a square has four sides while a cube has 6) through their own exploration and adult guided activities. They gain spatial awareness through music and movement activities and sport sessions and learn concepts of distance. We teach measurement from practical activities such as sand and water play where they begin to learn the concepts of full and empty. Cookery is a strong element of our curriculum and children learn to weigh and measure ingredients in a fun and rewarding way… If they have been accurate.
Data collection and organisation is the final strand of early mathematics at The Wandsworth Preschool. This involves sorting and matching at the toddler stage, and then introducing classifying, counting, measuring and comparing as they get older. Children sort during their play, dividing wooden blocks from the non- wooden ones for example. Later they sort for a purpose, sorting by colour or shape and then they begin to sort by more than one attribute and can verbalise their sorting rules. Graphing and mapping is a direct extension of sorting and classifying and when presented visually helps children see information in different forms. Our teachers create pictorial graphs depicting the different ways our children come to preschool or the number of different colour eyes for example. Our teachers help the children to interpret the data by asking pertinent questions.
We make all of these activities fun, exciting and interesting so children want to take part and learn. In this way mathematics becomes part of their being, their language and their thinking, building a strong foundation for continuing their learning at school.