Professional Development Coordinator Renee Whelan of the U.S. Department of Education says the goal of a math curriculum is to help preschool children master patterns, relationships and classification. Preschool children also should demonstrate an understanding of number and numerical operations. Math activities should build a foundation and love for learning. Themes related to sea life can provide ideas for a range of math activities. Children can use math concepts to talk about plants and animals, from tiny plankton to the giant blue whale.
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Math and Preschool Children
Numbers and sums are important. However, preschool children should also learn to classify, put objects in sequence and make judgments about weighing and measuring. Developing an understanding of how math is used in everyday activities is part of a preschool curriculum. Daily activities are used to discuss concepts such as taller and shorter and more or less. In preschool, it is vital to let children explore the world by using their senses to enhance their learning experience. Many objects related to sea life can be used, and children can smell and touch objects, such as shells and pebbles. Hiding different objects under a cloth and letting children use their hands to guess what is underneath is an activity that involves touch. The children can also count the number of shells and stones without seeing the objects. The number of sea objects that smell nice and not so nice can be divided into two piles and counted. Students can examine the differences and similarities between the piles.
Counting and Measuring
The sea can be used to explore concepts such a solids, liquids, measurement and volume. Preschool children learn by manipulating objects. Water can be used to allow children to measure and explore concepts such as more or less and volume.
Pictures of sand and shells can be used to discuss number concepts. For children who have never been to the beach, a sand pit could be used to explore large numbers. Children can classify animals into different categories. For example, is a penguin a bird or a fish?
Learn the Numbers
Several songs and rhymes can be used to help children learn to count. The song "Two Rainbow Fish" can be used to learn numbers, and rhymes such as "Five Little Fish" help children learn to count backwards. Another activity in which children can learn numbers is to count the number of sea animals caught in a net. Sea animal shapes can be cut out of paper or felt and the animals can be caught in a net, made of recycled knitted fruit nets. A rubber band can demonstrate how difficult it is to escape from a net. Loop a rubber band around the thumb and fourth finger and try to remove the band without using the other hand. Many sea animals have special characteristics that can be used in activities to compare numbers. Show pictures and count the arms of legs of sea animals, such as sea stars, frogs and sea urchins. Compare the numbers of arms and legs and discuss reasons why some animals may have five arms. Children can make drawings of different sea animals. A giant octopus can be made with colourful arms. The children can then attach numbers to the arms.
Count and Classify
Water can be used to let children guess which items can and cannot float in water. Use objects such as cork, crayon, scissors, plastic straw, wood and branches. Fill a plastic container with water and let the children put different objects in the water. Put the objects that float in one pile and the ones that do not float in another. Count the number of objects in the two piles and compare the objects in the two piles. Let the children suggest reasons behind why some objects float on water. An activity in which children learn to classify objects is to match animal shapes. Make different sized fish from paper. Cut out and laminate the shapes. Make two of each kind, ask children to pick up a fish and then find the matching fish. The fish can be sorted by size or colour or number of spots.
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