Our lives are filled with solving mathematical problems which we never stop to think about, such as:
- Do I have enough food in the fridge for dinner tonight? Can I get from work to nursery in time to fetch my child?
- How much food do I need to feed all my guests?
- Can I get from work to nursery in time to fetch my child?
The answers to all these questions are based on having a good understanding of mathematical concepts. Knowing how to estimate and calculate are skills we use automatically as adults which have been developed from babyhood, through all of our mathematical experiences.
At the Muswell Hill Preschool, we provide our children with high-quality experiences to nurture mathematical development and comprehension. Number and numeral recognition, shape recognition, measurement, patterning and representation of data all form part of our unique mathematical curriculum.
As with literacy, we plan learning experiences to foster early mathematical skills, from the day children start nursery 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 and order and is 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 singing number rhymes and songs and counting objects wherever they go, our young children learn to count the stairs, which are the steps they take to understand mathematics.
Our qualified Early Years teachers focus on developing early mathematicians through planned and stimulating, age-appropriate activities and through using 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 visually familiar to our children.
Skills such as learning to add and subtract develop through using real objects and routines in the day such as setting the table for lunch to practice these skills. Patterning, the regular arrangement of objects shapes or number 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 characteristic (a square has four sides) through their own exploration and adult-guided activities. They gain spatial awareness by participating in music and movement activities as well as sport sessions and learn concepts of distance. We learn measurement from practical activities such as sand and water play where they first 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 Muswell Hill Preschool. This involves sorting and matching at the toddler stage, classifying, counting, measuring and comparing as they get older. Children sort in their play, dividing the 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, the number of children with different colour eyes and other relatable examples, while our teachers help them 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 and mathematics becomes part of their being, their language and their thinking, building a strong foundation for continuing their learning at school.