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Teaching With Technology: Computers Made For Math

Good software can challenge children to have wonderful early-math experiences.

  • Grades: Early Childhood, PreK–K, 1–2

SOFTWARE HAS A MAGICAL ABILITY to concretely present hard concepts and link abstract symbols with sets of objects. Here are some of the best developmentally appropriate software programs for math learning.

Blue's Clues 1 2 3 Time Activities

Ages: 3-6/Teaches: classifying and sequencing objects, counting, number recognition, measurement, early addition and subtraction, money skills

The most exciting new early math program to come along in a while, this CD-ROM stars Blue, Steve, and the rest of the Blue's Clues cast. Six well-designed activities have children sorting food items into categories, completing patterns on colorful floats, sorting snacks like cookies, and classifying kinds of pizza (do you want cheese or no cheese?). Older children will enjoy adding and subtracting building supplies to create a train ride. Each activity has multiple challenge levels that automatically get more difficult as the child successfully plays the games. Humongous Entertainment, 800-499-8386; Windows/Mac CD-ROM; $19.99.

Millie & Bailey Preschool

Ages: 2-4/Teaches: pre-math concepts

One of the best early-math activities for preschoolers-which was originally included in Edmark's classic CD-ROM Millie's Math House-appears in this new cross-curriculum program: "Little, Middle, and Big." This program encourages children to use trial-and-error testing to match the right shoes to the differently sized feet of customers in a shoe store. Other early-- math activities ask children to use a blueprint to build a mouse house (which teaches geometry and shape recognition) or count out eyes or legs for a bug (which teaches one-to-one correspondence). The activities are fun and have multiple levels. Edmark (IBM Corp.), 800-3622890; Windows/Mac CDROM; $29.95.

Piggy's Birthday Present

Ages: 4-7/Teaches: pre- and early-math skills

This new program, the second in a series, breaks new ground in connect-the-dot puzzles. How? By putting hundreds of easy puzzles at a child's fingertips and a fun surprise at the end. At the "easy" level children simply click on numbers to see the dots magically connect, and the pictures start to fill in. This incremental success keeps preschoolers glued to their seats. With each click the numeral is labeled; in one of the later levels, appropriate for older children, addition and subtraction are required to find the next dot. There are a total of 50 activities that cover letters as well as numbers. Learning in Motion, 800-560-5670; Windows/Mac CD-ROM; $49.

Thinkin' Things: All Around Fripple Town

Ages: 4-8 Teaches: number patterns, number lines, directions

Some of the activities in this program are appropriate for older preschoolers. Our favorite was Skate Park-an open-ended sketch pad where simple addition and subtraction operations are illustrated by a roller skater who leaves a colored path wherever she goes. This activity helps children make the connection between a numerical relationship and geometric patterns. Another innovative activity introduces children to the math concepts of grids and mapping by letting them move a delivery truck around a block town. On each corner is a Fripple who needs to get to a specific place (such as the pink house on the corner of B and 4). Edmark (IBM Corp.), 800362-2890; Windows/Mac CDROM; $29.95.

JumpStart Math for Kindergartners

Ages: 4-6/Teaches: counting, sorting, number writing

In this adventure-based program, kids are asked to play games in order to help Hopsalot the Rabbit get ready for Guthry the Giant's birthday party. Each time a game is played, children earn a candle for the cake. Features include eight songs, multiple difficulty levels, and automatic tutoring. The activities are educationally sound, and some-like the pattern-making activity in which young ones create pretty paper to wrap the giant's gifts-are quite clever. Knowledge Adventure, 800-542-4240; Windows/Mac CD-ROM; $20.

Mighty Math Carnival Countdown!

Ages: 3-6/Teaches: comparing, sorting, patterns

Imagine a magical parking lot where children drive animals around in bumper cars of different shapes. They can either drive as they please or try to crack puzzles that require parking certain types of animals in just the right area of the lot. (Don't tell the kids they're learning how Venn diagrams work while they're playing.) This is just one of the clever techniques used to introduce important early-- math concepts. Each activity can be toggled between "explore" and "question and answer" modes so children have the choice between free and more directed play. Other games introduce problem solving and early 2-D geometry concepts. Edmark (IBM Corp.), 800-3622890; Windows/ Mac CD-ROM; $29.95.

Shoe Math

Because software is so abstract, it's fun to do an offline hands-on activity with real versions of the items children see on the screen. Here's a game that works well with the "Little, Middle, and Big" activity in Millie & Bailey Preschool [see review bottom right]. You'll need a dozen or so mixed-up boots and shoes of all shapes and sizes, a large tub of inch cubes, and four to eight children.

Step 1: Place the computer and monitor in easy view of the children and start the Millie & Bailey Preschool "Little, Middle, and Big" activity.

Step 2: Place a large bag of shoes on the table or floor for children to freely explore and try on for size. As they do this, help them use words that quantify the size-for example, "too big," "too small," and so on-and encourage comparison. (Make sure there are baby shoes, medium-size shoes, and very big shoes and that there are plenty to go around)

Step 3: As children investigate the shoes, introduce them to the computer activity. Say something like: "Look. There are more shoes on the computer screen. Who would like to help us make a match?"

Step 4: Let the children take turns at the computer testing the different shoes.

Step 5: As a backup, put a tub of inch cubes on the table. Let children see how many inch cubes they can fit inside each shoe. This is a great way for them to explore number and volume relationships.

Math on the Web

There are thousands of Web sites with math lesson plans and links to other math-related sites. To get you started, here are a few of the better ones.

http://www.lessonstop.org/math.html Lesson Stop contains a range of lesson plan ideas to inspire mathematical thinking in children. Most are K-12, but a few are useful for preschool.

http://www.nauticom/. net/www/cokids/teacher.html Called "The Early Childhood Educators' and Family Web Corner," this site contains hundreds of use ful links to a variety of early childhood sites, including over a dozen math links.

http://www.uxl.elu.edu/~cfsjy/mts/_link.htm This is ShuChen Jenny Yen's On-Line Montessori Teacher Albums for three- to six-yearold children. You'll find a useful discussion of mathematical thinking from a Montessori perspective. http-.//www.surfnetkids.com/coun ting.htm With a child in your lap, check out syndicated columnist Barbara Feldman's Web site, which includes links to five preschool counting and matching activities.

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  • Subjects:
    Addition and Subtraction, Charts and Graphs, Counting and Numbers, Geometry, Logic and Problem Solving, Money, Number Sense, Measurement, Early Math, Mouse Skills, Opposites and Contrasts, Shapes and Sizes, Songs and Rhymes, Sorting, Educational Technology, Teaching with Technology
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