by clicking the arrows at the side of the page, or by using the toolbar.
by clicking anywhere on the page.
by dragging the page around when zoomed in.
by clicking anywhere on the page when zoomed in.
web sites or send emails by clicking on hyperlinks.
Email this page to a friend
Search this issue
Index - jump to page or section
Archive - view past issues
Reflections Magazine : Issue 56 Spring 2014
Mathematical thinking takes time to develop and requires educators to understand their role as maths teachers. There are key processes that enable young children to make meaning about their world mathematically: Mathematical ways of working As a language, maths has particular processes and ways of viewing the world. In contrast to literacy or creative arts, a maths framing seeks to limit information about objects and reduce complexity. For example, when viewing a flower from a mathematical perspective, attributes such as shape, colour, height, and number of petals may be important information, however the environmental impact of the flower, its spiritual significance or biological name may not be relevant. This does not mean these things are not important, but from a mathematical perspective they provide too much information to think abstractly about the flower. Building a mathematical language Language is the key to supporting children to describe and to be able to think abstractly about objects. Educators can support children from a very early age to begin to think mathematically by being present in their play. As they interact with children they provide the descriptive language that links the children's sensory experience to the vocabulary that describes it. This scaffolding of children's experience allows children to build a vocabulary that enables them to attend to attributes of objects in their world. This is the beginning of thinking about objects in abstract ways. Supporting children to see relationships and patterns By reducing the amount of information that children attend to, they begin to see new patterns and relationships. These relationships are often abstract and require children to "chunk" information to think about objects in new ways. These relationships include: • attaching number to a group of objects; • matching objects or sets of objects; • seeing relationships between objects or groups of objects, for example, comparisons of size, weight, volume or spatial position; • creating hierarchies based on an attribute, for example placing rocks in a series from large to small; • predicting the likelihood of an event occurring (probability); • creating patterns. To allow children to make these mathematical connections they need both opportunities for play with open-ended materials and intentional teaching that introduces these mathematical concepts in fun and engaging ways. Valuing maths in our everyday lives Children recreate their experiences of their everyday lives in role play, for example, talking about time, pretending to cook, imitating adults measuring or using cash registers in shopping play. While children may not fully understand the maths underpinning these real life applications, they are beginning to experience the importance of numeracy in their everyday lives. Educators can respond to teaching possibilities in this emergent play by building mathematical conversations and instigating mathematical investigations. Representing their thinking As children begin to show an interest in drawing and 'mark making', they can be encouraged to represent their mathematical thinking using drawings, marks and symbols. In contrast to visual arts representations, maths graphics reduce the amount of detail to record minimal amounts of information such as tallies, personal graphics or simple drawings. According to Carruthers and Worthington (2006), children's mark making allows children to record their mathematical discoveries in individual and personal ways. This mark making supports children to think and record their discoveries and investigations. With experience children move to standard written symbols that align with school practices. The interplay of play and direct teaching Mathematical thinking takes time to develop. Some children are intuitively drawn to organised and mathematical ways of working, while others need adults to model this way of working. Educators in early childhood services are in an excellent position to provide mathematically rich play opportunities, as well as intentional teaching around concepts and ways of working. This intentional teaching, rather than being didactic, can flow from discussions about children's play projects, stories, games and children's personal experiences. Finger plays and action games, for example, can occur daily as part of routines and transitions. When educators understand the language of maths and mathematical ways of working, daily life in early childhood services is full of opportunities for mathematical conversations. Summary Maths is seen by many educators as a narrow way of thinking that does not easily align with creative and flexible thinking that underpins our early childhood philosophy. However, maths is a creative language that allows us to see the world in new and exciting ways. It is exciting for children to make mathematical discoveries and to feel competent as mathematical meaning makers. References: Carruthers, E., & Worthington, M. (2006). Children's mathematics: Making marks, making meaning. London: SAGE. Hirsh-Pasek, K., Golinkoff, R. M., Berk, L. E., & Singer, D. (2009). A mandate for playful learning in preschool: Presenting the evidence. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Petriwskyj, A., O'Gorman, L., & Turunen, T. (2013). The interface of the Australian national curriculum and the pre-Year 1 class in school: Exploring tensions. Australian Journal of Early Childhood, 38(1). van Oers, B. (2009). Emergent thinking in the context of play. Educational Studies in Mathematics, 74(1), 23 - 37. doi:DOI 10.1007/s10649-009-9225-x REFLECTIONS • GOWRIE AUSTRALIA • SPRING 2014 - ISSUE 56 5
Reflections Issue 57 Summer 2014
Reflections Magazine Issue 55 Winter 2014