I have had a complicated relationship with mathematics since I was a young child. I think I can pinpoint it to my middle school years and how my experiences during those pivotal years shaped how I thought of math, numbers, and my own intelligence. I struggled throughout high school, and even into college. I told myself, "I'm just not good at math." I truly believed I was deficient in numbers and calculations. However, now that I have been teaching numbers to children, I can honestly say that I am not deficient in numbers or bad at math. Rather, I was not given a foundation of number sense or guided down a path of fluency in equations in my earlier years. Was it the fault of my school system? The teachers? A lack of knowledge of how children need to learn numbers? I don't have the answers as to why I struggled for so long but I do know that I am not alone in this mentality that "I am just not good at math." We are all math people; we must find a way to hack our ability to connect to the patterns and to recognize the order that is all around us. That is one of the very reasons I love teaching math to young children. I love to see them build relationships with numbers, to play games with equations, and to interact with everyday materials in a mathematical way. My own relationship with math has changed as I have learned to approach it in a more humanistic and artistic mentality. Everything around us - our universe, nature, architecture - is formed by order and patterns - a compilation of the intrinsic beauty found in math.
Corelearn.com states that "Number sense is making sense of numbers – understanding numbers and how they work together. For example, in the primary grades students understand how numbers can be broken apart and put together when they explore and build fluency with concepts such as how to make 10 and how to break up 12 into 10 and 2. Multiplication builds on this foundation and with multiplication students are introduced to the distributive property: 8 x 12 is the same as 8(10 + 2) = (8 x 10) + (8 x 2)."
Math is something that kids should be having fun with. That is one of the reasons I love Bridges Math, especially in the younger years. It involves games, partner work, and sometimes art. The best part is that there are times that students don't even realize they are doing work. They just know they are having fun. It is this foundation of learning about the relationship between numbers and the patterns found in mathematics that I hope will establish in your child a solid footing as he or she progresses into more complex and higher ordered courses. I hope that numbers are not perceived as intimidating by your child - but a challenging puzzle that is begging to be solved!
Eddie Woo has his own YouTube channel called WooTube. He shares his experience teaching math and how he fell in love with numbers. He says, "mathematics is our sense for pattern, relationships, and logical connections. It's a whole new way to see the world...It's not just about finding answers but learning to ask the right questions." If you are short on time, skip to minute 5:29 for the really good stuff in his video: Math is a 6th sense. (Click the button below to watch.)
National Kindness Day fell on Wednesday this past week. Kindness to others is our number one expectation in our classroom and it is a skill that we must focus on daily. As we begin our day with morning meeting, we are establishing the culture of kindness as we practice respectful greetings and attentive listening. Students are encouraged to ask their classmates question and respond with kindness and empathy. Empathy is a skill just as listening and speaking is a skill; however, we must teach empathy and treat it with as much importance as we treat other academic subjects. Responsive Classroom states, "learning to ask appropriate questions will help children develop empathy for their friends, classmates, and family members, and knowing how to answer questions will help them deepen their social conversations and relationships with others as well." you can read more about emotional intelligence and how to help build empathy in your child in the Very Well Family blog.
We have been focusing on how to be a good citizen in class and our place in the world. Students have been learning about how we can give to others and share our abundance with those that are not as fortunate. Students are currently working on creating their good citizenship books where they are learning about the different types of communities, community helpers, and committing to being a good citizen and showing kindness to others. TheDanishway.com states that "many studies show that when you explain something to someone – like a math problem for example – you not only learn the subject much better than you would do by memorizing it yourself, but you also build our empathy skills which are further strengthened by having to be careful about the way the other person receives the information, and having to put oneself in their shoes to understand how learning works." Empathy and kindness stretches from morning meeting (taking turns listening and sharing) into partner reading, social studies projects, lining up for recess, and into the cafeteria. Students need to be able navigate their emotions and be able to help guide others in their need, as well. As we worked on our math objectives as a team this week, we also practiced kindness and empathy when one team member wasn't being as successful as the other. I saw students sharing their counting stars, working together to build their number pies, and talking through the directions on how to build their good citizenship book. Although they are young, they are learning the necessary communication skills that will help them be successful in every area of life.
Kelli Vogstad states on her blog that "researchers say that when children explore and learn about patterns, we help them build important foundations for later number work. Creating, extending, naming, and talking about patterns help build strong mathematicians. " This week we have delved back into patterns to reinforce the order that is found in mathematics. However, patterns are not exclusive to mathematics; they are found all around us. One particular place to look for patterns is in reading. Reading Rockets states, "as your child becomes a reader, he or she will learn to find patterns in letters and words and use this information to read groups of words (for example, sun, fun, bun all contain the '-un' letter pattern or family)." Your students have been learning a variety to patterns in class and we have been focusing on strengthening their ability to recognize patterns and order. When children have a strong sense of patterns, they are able to organize their thinking, which translates into stronger readers, writers, mathematicians, and problem solvers.
Our young scholars worked on a pattern quilt this week in math. I had one student state, "we haven't done any math in 2 days!" I had to remind them that pattern work is indeed math work and gave them another AABAAB pattern to build out of blocks. Their quilt work focused on a few important things: following directions, team work, recognizing patterns and creating them on a larger scale. Stroll down the first grade hallway and check out the quilt pattern your student helped put together!
According to https://nrich.maths.org/, a Cambridge University program, spotting underlying patterns is important for identifying many different kinds of mathematical relationships. It underpins memorization of the counting sequence and understanding number operations, for instance recognizing that if you add numbers in a different order their total stays the same. Pattern awareness has been described as early algebraic thinking, which involves:
I believe that a strong foundation in mathematical and print patterns is imperative for a child's early development. So, I encourage you, parents, to challenge your kids by playing pattern games and looking for patterns in everyday life. It's a fun and educational way to pass the time in the car, that's for sure!
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