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March 12, 2018

March Madness: Make Meaningful Math Connections

While March Madness may spell basketball for many, for me, this is a time for embracing MATH MADNESS! I often struggle coming up with ideas for math centers, but this time I had a plan. I wanted to look at how I could create centers that would align with our Texas Infant, Toddler, and 3-Year-Old Early Learning Guidelines, the Texas Pre-K Guidelines, Head Start Framework, and the state kindergarten TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills). Early childhood teachers in my region refer to the above-named resources when planning for the young children in their classrooms. Additionally, my school district works very closely with our Head Start program and with neighboring childcare centers.

Here are three tips for implementing math centers in your early childhood classrooms:

1.  Be intentional. Decide which skill you are going to focus on for that week. Remember: less is more. Sometimes we think that integrating several standards into one lesson is an efficient way to teach. Best practices tell us otherwise.

2.  Focus on your theme. Decide what connections you want to make to your theme. For these centers, I chose to stick with the theme of spring.

3.  Think creatively and gather your materials. This step will take you on a field trip to your neighborhood dollar store. Decide before you walk in what your budget is and take only that amount — it's easy to spend more when items are cheap, but best to remain focused on only what you need.

These centers will focus on counting (one-to-one correspondence), understanding the relationship between numbers and quantities, and being able to recognize numbers in small sets.

I have included the exact wording for the Texas Pre-K Guidelines, but the others are quite closely aligned.

Texas Pre-K Guidelines

Prekindergarten-aged children show basic counting readiness and counting by using nonverbal and verbal means (V. Mathematics Domain; A. Counting Skills).

V.A.1. Child knows that objects, or parts of an object can be counted.

V.A.3. Child counts 1–10 items, with one count per item.

V.A.5. Child counts up to 10 items and demonstrates that the last count indicates how many items were counted.

V.A.9. Child recognizes one-digit numerals, 0–9.

Now comes the fun part:

Time to go shopping! I decided that I could not spend more than 10 dollars (tax included). Keep in mind I inventoried materials that I already had at home or school like construction paper, markers, etc so I knew I wouldn't have to spend money on things that I already had. My mission: to look for unique items that I could use to engage children in counting and numbers.

My final purchase including only eight items: a pair of ice cube trays, a decorative fly swatter, a package of ten Easter eggs (crazy emotions on them to go along with theme of being "mad" about math), a package of pom-poms, a package of beads, a set of foam dice, a shower curtain, and a package of sandpaper. I almost couldn't believe it, I actually walked out with only one small bag!

Math Center 1

Materials: shower curtain, duct tape, decorative fly swatter, dice, number cards, pom-poms, glue, googly eyes (optional), container to place materials.

Remember: Children develop number concepts by working with tangible things. Providing objects helps children create connections to math. As they become more comfortable, they will begin to use pictorial representations, which then prepares them for abstract representations. For the purpose of this activity I refrained from using pictures or stickers, but you can adapt it as you wish.

Directions:

1.  To construct your oversize game board, use duct tape to create nine equal squares. To create your caterpillars or insects, glue three pom-poms together (optional) glue googly eyes (this is simply for the "cute, lifelike" factor). I chose to create patterns for each caterpillar so that I could use them again for another lesson.

2.  In the pictures below you can see that I have two variations of the game board, one with number cards and one without.

Variation 1:

1.  Each child rolls the die (I would use one per child), they count and say the number.

2.  Each child finds the corresponding card, then one by one places the corresponding number of caterpillars in the matching square.

3.  Using the fly swatter (pointer), they count and tap the caterpillars one by one.

4.  The next child takes a turn and repeats the process.

Variation 2 (Prior to starting the game, place a set number of caterpillars in each of the squares):

1.  Each child takes turns rolling a die, counting and saying the number.

2.  Each child finds the corresponding square with the correct number of caterpillars.

3.  Using the fly swatter, they count and tap the caterpillars one by one.

4.  The next child takes a turn and repeats the process.

Variation 3:

Instead of using the dice, have each child draw a number card and follow steps 2–4.

Please note: Your number cards can have the actual numeral on them, the number word, or dots. This would depend on what skill you are focusing on.

Children can tap the flower to count each caterpillar one by one. Then the teacher can ask questions of the children while they count ("Nicholas, how many do you have now?" or "How many caterpillars are there?")

Math Center 2

Materials: index cards, sandpaper, scissors, glue, beads

Directions:

1.  Cut out small circles from the sandpaper, glue the circles to index cards.

2. For tactile learners, this activity allows the child to touch each circle while counting and emphasizes one-to-one correspondence, while they place bead on each corresponding circle.

Use sandpaper to create the numerals on the index cards and then have children count out the beads and place on the card.

Math Center 3:

Materials: egg carton, plastic Easter eggs (I loved these plastic eggs with the crazy expressions — they are "mad" about counting), beads, Sharpie, clear tape

For this center, there are three variations:

1.  Provide an opportunity for children to simply place each egg in its spot. You can cut up the egg carton in sections to hold a specific number of eggs (a four-egg carton holding four plastic eggs).

2.  In the picture below I have drawn dots on the eggs and I have randomly written numbers in the sections of the egg cartons. Children will match the dots with the corresponding number.

3. I put the corresponding number of beads in each egg and taped the two parts together. Children can rattle the egg and listen to and compare sounds. (One bead versus three beads? What does that sound like? Or, children can feel the difference of each weight.)

Math Center 4:

Materials: two ice cube trays, pom-poms or beads, tweezers (optional), Sharpie, index cards (optional)

Directions:

1.  Take one of the trays and with a Sharpie, write a numeral in each compartment. Have the children use their fingers or tweezers to count beads one by one and place them in the corresponding compartment.

2.  Take the other tray and with a Sharpie, draw dots in each compartment. Have the children use their fingers or tweezers to pick up and count each bead one by one and place them in the corresponding compartment.

Adaptation: You can use number cards in correlation with this game. Have the child pick a card, say the number, and place the correct number of beads in the corresponding compartment.

Math Center 5:  Shoe Box Learning Center/Playdough Numerals

Materials: shoe box, glue, non-hardening playdough

Directions:

1.  I found this Numeral Writing: Math Shoe Box Learning Center activity on Scholastic Teachables. The directions are included along with the resources to print out the number cards. I especially liked the size of these cards. I was able to print them out and glue them onto large index cards (perfect for little hands). In the pictures below, in addition to the number, I included the number word and I cut out sandpaper circles to correlate with the number. You can adapt this however you like. For little ones, I suggest including pictures of the steps so that children can independently complete the task. I would create a rebus with the pictures and place them in the box. This Teachable also includes directions for Finger Writing and Number Collages.

Assessment:

Little Learner Packets: Numbers

This resource is a great way to assess a child's understanding of the concepts being taught. This resource can be tied into what you're teaching and can be done independently.  I am a strong advocate for creating centers that are focused on hands-on activities, but I do recognize the importance of meeting the needs of all types of learners. The author provides teaching tips that include suggestions on how to use this resource. This is very helpful! I decided that I would use this resource as an addition to my centers (as a way of documenting), as a form of assessment, and as take-home practice.

Here's hoping that that you will be able to use these tips to ease the anxiety of planning math centers. I hope you and your students have fun joining in on the March Madness or should I say — Math Madness!

As always, I look forward to you sharing your ideas with me. I would love to hear about your shopping experiences and seeing what wonderful centers you come up with.

Happy Spring and Happy Planning!

Sandy

While March Madness may spell basketball for many, for me, this is a time for embracing MATH MADNESS! I often struggle coming up with ideas for math centers, but this time I had a plan. I wanted to look at how I could create centers that would align with our Texas Infant, Toddler, and 3-Year-Old Early Learning Guidelines, the Texas Pre-K Guidelines, Head Start Framework, and the state kindergarten TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills). Early childhood teachers in my region refer to the above-named resources when planning for the young children in their classrooms. Additionally, my school district works very closely with our Head Start program and with neighboring childcare centers.

Here are three tips for implementing math centers in your early childhood classrooms:

1.  Be intentional. Decide which skill you are going to focus on for that week. Remember: less is more. Sometimes we think that integrating several standards into one lesson is an efficient way to teach. Best practices tell us otherwise.

2.  Focus on your theme. Decide what connections you want to make to your theme. For these centers, I chose to stick with the theme of spring.

3.  Think creatively and gather your materials. This step will take you on a field trip to your neighborhood dollar store. Decide before you walk in what your budget is and take only that amount — it's easy to spend more when items are cheap, but best to remain focused on only what you need.

These centers will focus on counting (one-to-one correspondence), understanding the relationship between numbers and quantities, and being able to recognize numbers in small sets.

I have included the exact wording for the Texas Pre-K Guidelines, but the others are quite closely aligned.

Texas Pre-K Guidelines

Prekindergarten-aged children show basic counting readiness and counting by using nonverbal and verbal means (V. Mathematics Domain; A. Counting Skills).

V.A.1. Child knows that objects, or parts of an object can be counted.

V.A.3. Child counts 1–10 items, with one count per item.

V.A.5. Child counts up to 10 items and demonstrates that the last count indicates how many items were counted.

V.A.9. Child recognizes one-digit numerals, 0–9.

Now comes the fun part:

Time to go shopping! I decided that I could not spend more than 10 dollars (tax included). Keep in mind I inventoried materials that I already had at home or school like construction paper, markers, etc so I knew I wouldn't have to spend money on things that I already had. My mission: to look for unique items that I could use to engage children in counting and numbers.

My final purchase including only eight items: a pair of ice cube trays, a decorative fly swatter, a package of ten Easter eggs (crazy emotions on them to go along with theme of being "mad" about math), a package of pom-poms, a package of beads, a set of foam dice, a shower curtain, and a package of sandpaper. I almost couldn't believe it, I actually walked out with only one small bag!

Math Center 1

Materials: shower curtain, duct tape, decorative fly swatter, dice, number cards, pom-poms, glue, googly eyes (optional), container to place materials.

Remember: Children develop number concepts by working with tangible things. Providing objects helps children create connections to math. As they become more comfortable, they will begin to use pictorial representations, which then prepares them for abstract representations. For the purpose of this activity I refrained from using pictures or stickers, but you can adapt it as you wish.

Directions:

1.  To construct your oversize game board, use duct tape to create nine equal squares. To create your caterpillars or insects, glue three pom-poms together (optional) glue googly eyes (this is simply for the "cute, lifelike" factor). I chose to create patterns for each caterpillar so that I could use them again for another lesson.

2.  In the pictures below you can see that I have two variations of the game board, one with number cards and one without.

Variation 1:

1.  Each child rolls the die (I would use one per child), they count and say the number.

2.  Each child finds the corresponding card, then one by one places the corresponding number of caterpillars in the matching square.

3.  Using the fly swatter (pointer), they count and tap the caterpillars one by one.

4.  The next child takes a turn and repeats the process.

Variation 2 (Prior to starting the game, place a set number of caterpillars in each of the squares):

1.  Each child takes turns rolling a die, counting and saying the number.

2.  Each child finds the corresponding square with the correct number of caterpillars.

3.  Using the fly swatter, they count and tap the caterpillars one by one.

4.  The next child takes a turn and repeats the process.

Variation 3:

Instead of using the dice, have each child draw a number card and follow steps 2–4.

Please note: Your number cards can have the actual numeral on them, the number word, or dots. This would depend on what skill you are focusing on.

Children can tap the flower to count each caterpillar one by one. Then the teacher can ask questions of the children while they count ("Nicholas, how many do you have now?" or "How many caterpillars are there?")

Math Center 2

Materials: index cards, sandpaper, scissors, glue, beads

Directions:

1.  Cut out small circles from the sandpaper, glue the circles to index cards.

2. For tactile learners, this activity allows the child to touch each circle while counting and emphasizes one-to-one correspondence, while they place bead on each corresponding circle.

Use sandpaper to create the numerals on the index cards and then have children count out the beads and place on the card.

Math Center 3:

Materials: egg carton, plastic Easter eggs (I loved these plastic eggs with the crazy expressions — they are "mad" about counting), beads, Sharpie, clear tape

For this center, there are three variations:

1.  Provide an opportunity for children to simply place each egg in its spot. You can cut up the egg carton in sections to hold a specific number of eggs (a four-egg carton holding four plastic eggs).

2.  In the picture below I have drawn dots on the eggs and I have randomly written numbers in the sections of the egg cartons. Children will match the dots with the corresponding number.

3. I put the corresponding number of beads in each egg and taped the two parts together. Children can rattle the egg and listen to and compare sounds. (One bead versus three beads? What does that sound like? Or, children can feel the difference of each weight.)

Math Center 4:

Materials: two ice cube trays, pom-poms or beads, tweezers (optional), Sharpie, index cards (optional)

Directions:

1.  Take one of the trays and with a Sharpie, write a numeral in each compartment. Have the children use their fingers or tweezers to count beads one by one and place them in the corresponding compartment.

2.  Take the other tray and with a Sharpie, draw dots in each compartment. Have the children use their fingers or tweezers to pick up and count each bead one by one and place them in the corresponding compartment.

Adaptation: You can use number cards in correlation with this game. Have the child pick a card, say the number, and place the correct number of beads in the corresponding compartment.

Math Center 5:  Shoe Box Learning Center/Playdough Numerals

Materials: shoe box, glue, non-hardening playdough

Directions:

1.  I found this Numeral Writing: Math Shoe Box Learning Center activity on Scholastic Teachables. The directions are included along with the resources to print out the number cards. I especially liked the size of these cards. I was able to print them out and glue them onto large index cards (perfect for little hands). In the pictures below, in addition to the number, I included the number word and I cut out sandpaper circles to correlate with the number. You can adapt this however you like. For little ones, I suggest including pictures of the steps so that children can independently complete the task. I would create a rebus with the pictures and place them in the box. This Teachable also includes directions for Finger Writing and Number Collages.

Assessment:

Little Learner Packets: Numbers

This resource is a great way to assess a child's understanding of the concepts being taught. This resource can be tied into what you're teaching and can be done independently.  I am a strong advocate for creating centers that are focused on hands-on activities, but I do recognize the importance of meeting the needs of all types of learners. The author provides teaching tips that include suggestions on how to use this resource. This is very helpful! I decided that I would use this resource as an addition to my centers (as a way of documenting), as a form of assessment, and as take-home practice.

Here's hoping that that you will be able to use these tips to ease the anxiety of planning math centers. I hope you and your students have fun joining in on the March Madness or should I say — Math Madness!

As always, I look forward to you sharing your ideas with me. I would love to hear about your shopping experiences and seeing what wonderful centers you come up with.

Happy Spring and Happy Planning!

Sandy