Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Pasta Maths For Preschoolers

Maths for a three year old must, necessarily, be practical, fun and 'concrete'.  Elizabeth can recognise the names of numbers, she can count competently up to about 15, and nearly to 20. She understands that one number goes with one object when counting, so she can reliably say how many objects there are.

To move her on, I decided to introduce the concept of addition. I didn't really mention adding, and I certainly didn't write down any sums, but I gave her an activity that went beyond mere counting and labelling 'how many'.

We used a big bowl of dried pasta shapes, some plastic cups and a die, with spots for 1 to 6.

The Rules:

1. Take it in turns to throw the die.
2. Pick out the number of pasta pieces that corresponds to the number on the die.
3. Throw the die again, collecting a second portion of pasta shapes.
4. Count up how many pasta shapes you have altogether.

In other words,
"Ooh, you had 4 bits, then you got 3 more. Now you've got...?" and Elizabeth would obediently count them up and find out that she had 7. Simple! and surprisingly engaging.

You can also throw in questions like;
"Which pile of pasta is the biggest?"
"Which is the biggest amount?"
"Which is the highest number?"
and (my favourite)
"Do you think you'll get a higher or lower number this time?"

If we do it again, I might stretch to the concept of counting on: hold the highest number in your head and count on from there...

It's a way of working with numbers that allows the preschooler to experience addition at a basic, concrete level. Reception-level Heinemann Maths doesn't go much beyond this, in the "Addition" work book that encourages the child to use piles of cubes to find out the answers to sums, given as pictures.

While Elizabeth was doing this, Francesca was working very hard on her English. She was writing lists about our holiday in York, using colons and commas.

Yesterday, Francesca had chosen a nice pink notebook to be her special English writing book, so she was fairly keen to use it today (although she procrastinates a lot about writing).

She got the hang of the punctuation very quickly and her sentences were lovely.

I particularly like the idea that she saw York minser and also a big terdy ber (teddy bear). I think her phonetic spelling is great and I love the fact that she had a go and did all that independently.

Sebastian had his own pasta and cups and was very busy pouring, shaking, transferring, emptying and filling for about 40 minutes. Who'd have thought pasta would be so interesting?!

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