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NYC Helpline: How To: Teach Math

Infuse Your Choice Time Centers with Mathematics
Sarah Picard

Many pre-kindergarten and kindergarten teachers have a time in their day school day when children make choice about their work and play. Children rush off to block areas, puzzle centers, writing centers, dramatic play areas, and art centers. Teachers strive to create rich learning environments for children to important social and academic work.

This how-to will help teachers of our youngest students integrate mathematics into their existing choice time centers. Keep in mind that some of these tools may seem at first glance to be “too grown-up” for the children. It will be important that we explain how the tools are used and accept children’s approximations of the tools. For example, we are not expecting them to write in the little lines on the waiter tablets in dramatic play. We accept their approximations and give them the opportunity to explore and play with these new materials. Supporting their work with math in their own worlds is our goal. These ideas can help them see how numbers can be used in the world.

Dramatic Play Center: Teachers often set up this ever-changing center as different business settings. Pretend coins and bills are often in these centers. Here are a few more ideas that you may want to try.

  • Post office – include date stamps and stamp pads, pretend stamps, pens and pencils, envelopes, paper, wall calendar, clock
  • Restaurant – Include the tablets waiters use to take customer’s orders. Teacher children how they can write the order on the tablet and record how much it costs. You may also want to include menus that you make with the class that show how much each item costs.
  • Blank – Blank deposit slips, envelopes, pencils, pens, date stamps, wall calendar, clock
  • Accounting Office – Believe it or not, I have seen 4 year olds find tax forms riveting. Children watch their parents fill out these forms and work with numbers, so if they see it and talk about it, you may want to set up an accountant’s office at “The Bank.” You can include tax forms, pens, and calculators. Kids really enjoy the calculators that print on adding machine tape. You will go through many rolls of tape and will probably want to purchase replacement rolls in bulk.
  • Construction Office – This dramatic play center is often set up next to the bock area. Kids design their structures in the construction or architect office and then go to the block area to build it. Teachers can include large butcher paper for students to sketch out plans like architects. Markers, pens, pencils, rulers, tape measures, and yardsticks are also helpful.

Block Area: This choice time center gives students exposure to many geometry concepts. You may want to label each shelf with the 3D geometric name for each block (cones, rectangular prisms, triangular prisms, cylinders, spheres, etc).

Table Toys like cubes or beads to string on necklaces: Many of these table toys are made on bright colors. Teachers can encourage students to follow and create patterns as they build necklaces and towers.

Remember to give yourself and your students some time to get used to these new centers. It may take a few days to “teach” students how to use these new tools in the center. Many teachers take their class on a field trip to “study or investigate” how a bank or restaurant works before they introduce it in the dramatic play center (See Field Trips Motivate Mathematicians). You will be teaching your students how the workers and the customers use numbers in the world and then the students can return to school and approximate this use of numbers in the dramatic play center.

Have fun!

 

 

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