Juanita Copley in The Young Child and Mathematics said that there are three important lessons for someone teaching mathematics to young children.
1. Spend time watching, observing and listening to children. She believes that you can learn most from what the children themselves are doing.
2. She stresses that each child is important, each of them have an intuitive mathematical knowledge, and they are all natural learners.
3. It’s important not to correct every error. “Instead, encourage investigation, and remember that children ‘construct’ their own knowledge.”
Jean Piaget, a Swiss developmental psychologist, believed in “constructivism.” His theory of cognitive development said that children were active learners, drawing on direct physical and social experiences as well as culturally transmitted knowledge to ‘construct’ their own understandings of the world around them.
Sand Activities - Sand is made of a variety of crushed and ground materials such as rocks, shells, bones, and plants. The following activities were adapted from Maryann Kohl and Jean Potter’s book Science Arts: Discovering Science Through Art Experiences.
Infants: Cool and Hot Sand – This activity can be done in a sand box or by taking a trip to the beach. Take off their shoes and socks and let the infants feel the sand with their feet. Explore the sand by helping them crawl or walk on cool sand, then on hot sand to heighten their awareness of sand’s thermal properties using tactile learning.
Toddlers: Sand City – Encourage toddlers to work together to make a sand city. Give them square, triangular, circular (juice) and rectangular containers to work with. Have some of them make buildings and some of them make roads around the buildings.
Talk about the shapes of the buildings and their size. Encourage the toddlers to use a variety of containers to add a three dimensional quality to their city. Add cars, people, animals, rocks, and twigs to make trees to make their city more realistic. Include various forms of transportation such as railroad, airports and bus stations. An adult can help the toddler make traffic signs for the city such as stop, curve, don’t walk signs etc.
Preschool: Sieves and Funnels – There are many ways for young children to explore with these simple tools. Have them observe the size of the openings. Which sieve catches the most stones, shells or debris? Which lets sand through the fastest? Why is this? Experiment with funnels the same way and have them try to predict which funnel will let dry sand through the fastest? Will it be a large or small one? Hold a funnel race to determine the winner and talk about their mathematical relationships.
Discovery comes first, and practice in the form of play follows.