math and exploration

All young children are natural mathematicians.  Piaget believed that what he called “logico-mathematical knowledge” begins to develop from birth.  At MCNS, we believe that math-related activities should be an integral part of the everyday experiences in both the classrooms and the homes of our children.

Most early child educators agree that blocks are the essential learning tools for children.  Block play in the United States was first promoted about 100 years ago by Carolyn Pratt, a teacher who believed, as we do, that children learn best through their constructive open-ended play.  That is why you will find extensive block areas in all three of our classrooms.  Blocks provide opportunities for children to build skills in many areas including language and social skills, but they particularly foster skills in mathematics.

The basic blocks we use are wooden unit blocks based on the proportions 1:2:4. When children play with unit blocks they are practicing mathematical skills.   Children count blocks as they build towers.  They compare buildings, learning comparative vocabulary such as big, bigger, and biggest. They problem-solve as they search for the right-sized block to complete a building.  They use the blocks as measurement tools.  They learn that two one- unit blocks are as long as one two-unit block. The relationships of the blocks help children explore the mathematical ideas of fractions and multiples.  Many of the manipulations made when playing with blocks are similar to those needed for geometry and algebra.  In fact, some studies show that children who play with blocks do better on math achievement tests in high school than children who did not play with blocks!

MCNS offers children many opportunities for sorting, classifying, and patterning, which are important additional basic math activities that lay groundwork for future math learning.   Helping children begin to understand the relationship between parts and wholes is another important math area that is explored.  Helping children to learn how to compare things is the beginning of learning how to measure. 

There are many math manipulative toys and materials in all of the classrooms, including puzzles, dominoes, Kapla blocks, and gears.  Books, both fiction and non-fiction, are read to the children about time, shapes, recipes, counting, and fractions. 

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