Ideas that support parents understand how to use inquiry and play based learning can be used at home while providing some of the background thinking a teacher might engage in when planning or implementing lessons.

JULY 21st  2016

Mathematicians work with very particular tools for different reasons. Getting your child to think about and explore the uses for different tools prepares them to think like a mathematician. These activities are designed to support your child making choices and think about the cause and effect side of the design and the purpose of a tool.

(YOUNGER EXPLORERS 3-5 years) Mixing and Pouring:
Messy play is so much fun and develops all sorts of skills and understandings. However it is  messy, so as a parent you may want to take it outside where you can hose off the results. Collect a series of containers, spoons, sieves (basically any safe cooking utensil, container) and get some flour, rice, water and food coloring. Anything that can be mixed and stirred (and is safe to put in the mouth, as kids of this age will test their experiments and mixtures with their mouth) can be used in this activity.
Let your child mix, stir, combine and test ideas using the tools and materials. You will soon see that they are beginning to make more deliberate choices showing an understanding of the causal relationship between the tool and the purpose it is being used for. This is the sort of thinking mathematicians will use later on when choosing specific tools to meet their needs.

Another good fun idea involves paint, different toy vehicles and a big flat surface or sheet of paper or material. Put the paint onto some container lids and have your child’s select different vehicles. Get them to dip the wheels/tracks of the vehicle in the paint and drive them all over the surface. Apart from being great fun and making some cool tracks and marks, your child will see that different tools will do different things because of the way they are designed.

Another benefit of messy play is that it begins to introduce the idea that things change and alter when we do different things to them. This is a great way to begin exploring choice and consequence ideas with very young children. It can become the building block for discussions about personal choices that will have consequences.
(OTHER EXPLORERS 6-9 years) Designing and Planning:
I would still recommend messy play for this age group, but there are also some other ideas and activities that will support your child to gain mathematical understanding that tools are designed and used for specific purposes. Many children of this age have grown up with digital tools and yet have not really thought about the different features of the tool and why they were designed that way.
Here is a chance to connect the digital with print and idea making. Invite your child to think about a new digital tool they would like to create and have them design it and whom they would like to design it for.  You and your child may even want to spend time talking with others about ideas.
Have an imagining conversation “Imagine you could you have a new computer/tablet/phone, etc. that could do whatever you want it to do. What would you like your …. to do? Why do you want it to do that?  
You can even modify the WHY questions to develop this idea.
Once your child has collected the ideas invite them to design the new tool. They can do this using drawings or model making with boxes and sticky tape, etc.
Encourage your child to think carefully about what the machine needs to do and who is going to be using the machine. How will the features they are adding help meet these needs?

This idea can be modified to meet any interest your child has by inviting them to plan and design things that are new and different but have to meet a specific need or want. This encourages ‘CAUSATION’ thinking.

Some ideas include

  • Design a new pair of shoes
  • Design multi weather traveling clothes
  • Design a new bedroom
  • Design a vehicle
For children who would easily do this, invite them to do some research into the history of  a similar invention (research can be as simple as looking at pictures and talking about them together. Use the WHY routine to help examine what you are seeing in these pictures more closely)
Some big idea questions to keep in mind are
  • How and why did these inventions develop?
  • What technology was around at the time?
  • What were people’s needs/wants?
  • How did these inventions meet these needs?
From here your child can build on these historic ideas to develop a more informed ‘new invention’.

July 14th  2016

All of these games and real life planning situations help young children develop systems and experiment with counting, space, shape and problem solving while experimenting with mark making. You are helping your child learn to think like a mathematician before they get into the nitty gritty or math knowledge itself.

(YOUNGER EXPLORERS 3-5 years) Organizing and Counting

Some of the key mathematical concepts are based on organizing, systems and recognizing differences. There are lots of fun simple things you can do top help your child develop these bigger ideas before they even start on the on the basic skills and knowledges connected to number, counting, shapes, etc.

Invite your child to help you set the table for a meal. Ask them to think about who will be sitting at the table. Maybe they could draw a mark or picture for each person and with help cut out these ‘symbols/drawings/marks’. (If your child is not into drawing or mark making use counters or photos or toys to help represent people). This is the right there information. With your child ask – How do we know if we have everyone here? This is encourages your child to rethink and recheck who is being represented with the images or other counters.  Now ask ‘Now we know who is coming to dinner, how will we know what to put on the table?’ This gets your child to think and problem solve about how they will collect and organize the things that go on the table. Maybe you could start with putting the images in the places of the people at the table. From here let your child work out ways of solving how to set the table.

If you are going away on a holiday, get your child to help pack. This will help them think about what they need and how they will organize it. Maybe you could draw a picture/symbol or word for the number of days you will need to pack for. (Keep it simple between 3 and 5 days.) Get your child to think about what they need when they get dressed. This is the ’Right There’ information.  Now get your child to help you collect and organize the different sets of clothes for the days you have drawn or written a heading for.  Both of these simple organizing tasks helps your child learn how to think and problem solve in ways that will support them as mathematicians.

Going shopping, ask your child to help you prepare the shopping list using drawings and numbers. This helps them problem solve.  If, for example, there are 4 people in our house, how many apples should we buy? When you go shopping ask your child to use their part of the shopping list to collect the things you need.

Play a game with cars, Lego, teddies, dolls, sports equipment or anything handy. This will give your child a chance to develop a system and problem solve. Example

  • Use the Lego, blocks and cars to set up a road system or town.
  • Use the dolls and teddies to set up a restaurant or shop.
  • Use the sports equipment to set up a mini family olympics or obstacle course and develop a scoring or point system 

(OTHER EXPLORERS 6-9 years) Olympics and Numbers

With the Olympics just around the corner and the media hype beginning, it is a great opportunity to see numbers in action for all sorts of reasons. Invite your child to become a number scientist.

  • Investigate your home country’s team and ask your child to find out how many different ways numbers are being used. Finding the numbers is the ‘Right There’ information. Thinking about what the numbers are used for is the ‘Think and Search’ information. Use the ‘What makes you say that?’ thinking routine to encourage your child to think deeply and justify ideas using evidence.
  • Encourage your child to collect news reports and collect numbers connected to the Olympics over a period of a few days, then find different ways to organize these numbers. There are lots of ways to organize numbers- the use of the number, the place value, the smallest to biggest, all the numbers that have ‘2’ (or another number) in them, etc. Again use the thinking routine to explore the organizing ideas your child has
  • Play with the ideas of the Olympics and have your child pretend they are an Olympics organiser. Use play to develop ideas and have fun. Provide materials that let them set up a ticketing system, maps, scorecards, athlete profiles, etc. and you can be the tourist or even competitor in this game

If your child is not interested in the Olympics these ideas can be used in connection to whatever they are interested in.

  • If it’s movies or music, how are numbers used in this industry? How could these ideas be used in play?
  • If your child is interested in space or science, how are numbers used in this field? How could these ideas be used in play?
  • If your child is interested in myths and legends or fantasy, how are numbers or mathematical ideas used in these stories? How could these ideas be used in play?
  • If your child is interested in music and dance, investigate the use of mathematical ideas in this field? How could your child use these ideas in play? Could they pretend to be a composer, a performer?

Using play to test and explore ideas encourages your child to take risks, to problem solve and think without being worried about ‘getting it right’. It encourages your child to be a creative thinker using known logical ideas.

Have fun together.

July 7th 2016

(YOUNGER EXPLORERS 3-5 years) Understanding space and shape:

Once your child has had a chance to experiment with different tools invite them to become an observer and a recorder.Wherever/whenever your child plays or is out and about make sure some basic drawing tools are available.

Learning to record and observe the world around you, opens your child’s eyes to mathematical connections in their world. It will help them explore space, shape and position. By becoming an observer and recorder, your child can learn how to draw shapes in ways that are more meaningful and relevant than copying activities.

As your child begins to experiment with mark making, join in the conversations they will be having as they draw. You may not recognize what they are creating with the marks they are using, but the marks will be deliberate and meaningful to them. Most very young children will draw elements that we can’t see, like speed, movement, etc.  

For more ideas see this link

(OTHER EXPLORERS 6-9 years) Investigating ways to record mathematical ideas:

If your child is building with blocks and they know the blocks will need packing up later, have him/her record their work as it develops using drawings and simple marks.

Or if you are outside, invite your child to draw a map or even create a sketch of leaves, plants, birds or the animals they see.

As your child experiments with these mark making experiences they will ask questions about how things might be represented. It’s a great chance to develop understanding and language connected to shape, space, location and position. Counting can become a natural part of these experiences. While doing thisyour child will begin to develop an understanding of mathematical concepts in a real world context. Your child also begins to develop the critical skill of looking at details and noticing important information.