School is in session and teachers and students alike are ready to jump into learning. The start of a new year gives educators the opportunity to make this year’s instruction stronger, more meaningful and more engaging for students.
Below are a five simple ways to create a fun and engaging math culture in your early childhood classroom this year.
1. Infuse math time with songs and chants.
Coming up with a meaningful, catchy song or chant can renovate your math block. Consider creating a class song that transitions and prepares your scholars for math study. Songs and chants can also be used to further understanding of certain math topics. For example, a great song can help students differentiate when to add or subtract while doing word problems.
2. Minimize worksheets with hands-on practice.
While pencil to paper work is sometimes necessary, challenging yourself to create interactive ways for students to practice important math skills will increase their enjoyment and engagement during independent work time. Instead of having students sort by simply cutting and pasting shapes into groups, give them a real life, hands-on sorting scenario. Take that junk bucket of writing utensils out from behind your desk and have students help you re-sort these classroom materials by color, type, size, feature, etc.
3. Support math topics with related literature.
A great book can give context to student learning by solidifying understanding of an ongoing topic, or sparking their interest in a new one. This strategy is often used to support literacy instruction, but can be just as useful and meaningful in math. When introducing the days of the week, for example, close out your lessons with a reading of The Very Hungry Catipillar, by Eric Carle. Students will love “finding math” in this classroom favorite. Check out more suggestions for literature to support math instruction here.
4. Give students choice.
Just as with hands-on practice, students also enjoy choosing how they interact with math concepts and how they show what they know. Following a lesson on patterns, allow students to practice making patterns based on their own interests and strengths. Create opportunities for artistic students to color patterns, while kinesthetic learners build patterns with snap cubes or play-doh. All students will get practice with the skill of creating patterns, in a way that is most enjoyable to them.
5. Use “mathematician statements”.
Also important when engaging young learners in math is for students to see themselves a do-ers of math. Students need to internalize the idea that they are mathematicians, just as much as they are readers and writers. To support this, refer to students as mathematicians, talk about what mathematicians do and use mathematician statements to guide math lessons. For example, when introducing a lesson on comparing quantities, share with students that mathematicians talk about “how many” of something there is by using special math words (more, less, the same as, etc). Then, whenever you catch students using this skill in a real-world way (arguing over who has more blocks), remind them that mathematicians can count to confirm how many.
These are just five, of many, ways to create a culture of fun and engaging math for young learners this year. How do you keep students interested and invested in learning math in your classroom? We look forward to hearing from you!