Friday, February 14, 2014

Preschool Shapes and Math Exploration

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Since I never liked math growing up, I really am trying hard to teach my children good math habits.  The reason most people don't like math doesn't have to to with the real way that mathematicians think about numbers.  I remember 4th grade math we had to memorize the times tables.  We had to take a timed test and it started with the 1X and every time that you passed one of the tests, you got a cut out shape of ice cream scoop put on the cone with your name on it.  The ice cream scoop had a number on it and you had to get to twelve scoops so that the class could have an ice cream party.  Upon completing the last one, you got a cherry that said: Well Done! from an ink stamp.  I hate to admit this, but I remember looking at other people's answers to check if my numbers were right.  I have really good vision and if I looked really hard I could see what she was writing without being obvious.  I don’t remember which tests that I had to take more than once, but I know that there had to be a few.  Having to take a timed test is anxiety provoking enough, but when I had to be able to regurgitate times tables it put me over the top.  It got worse as the numbers got bigger.   My hands would sweat, my stomach would hurt, anything that would get me out of having to take the test in that 4th grade math class.  People would KNOW if I didn’t pass the test because THEY would get a scoop and I would not, like a scarlet letter across my chest.  Every time anyone looked at the board with the colorful cones they would see that my cone had less scoops then some of the others.  Cherries with Well Done!  inked on them were popping up all over the board and mine still needed some scoops.   Just that visual reminder made me not want to go to math class.  I never wanted to go to math class again.  In my graduate math class, we are learning about new ways to get students to understand that math is actually a creative medium.  I had some fun activities at home that I worked on with Baby Bear that related to geometry.  

My brother and sister-in-law got her these cool tangram like shapes for Hanukah from a local store called Toyology.  She likes to explore and discover, so this was right up her alley. 

It starts out by giving suggestions to help kids understand how to fit shapes inside the larger shape by giving you the small shapes you will need to arrange inside the larger shape. 

You get to lay them out first and then fit them inside. 

Next, you have to place the small shapes into the larger one.

For a preschooler, they might need some help figuring out what to do at first, but then they get creative freedom.  Baby Bear gets to turn and turn the shapes until they all fit inside. 

By trail and error, Baby Bear works to do more advanced shapes.  Eventually, they build up to harder shapes and no small shape key.    We also have a magnetic version of a similar geometry game.  This is good as a foundation for children to build on since it helps them to start to experiment with shapes that make up other shapes. 

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