For the next several Mondays, we offer a series of Math storytimes from Ann Hotta, children’s librarian at Berkeley Public Library
ACL Blog: Mathematical Storytime. Part 2
Mathematical Storytime, Part 2
Shape recognition is an early literacy skill because it helps children learn to recognize the letters of the alphabet. But shape recognition is also an early math skill; in grade school it will be used to study perimeter, area, and geometry. Just as singing, talking, reading, writing, and playing are early literacy skills that we can do with more intention and awareness in storytime, so can we help parents teach early math literacy skills. Zero to Three has identified these skills as numeracy, representation, spatial sense, measurement, estimation, patterns, and problem-solving.[i]
Spatial sense, for example, is described as the ideas of shape, size, space, position, direction and movement. I especially like the charming Shape Story by LittleStoryBug.com (you can find it on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NjSzfrn5AHk). This is a great use of a flannelboard, and I have told this story a number of time at my storytime. Inspired, I made up my own shape story/game:
First, I have a flannelboard set, which looks like this when the story is done.
I place each piece down, one at a time, as I tell the story:
One day, I was at home and looked out the windows of my house.
Then I walked out the door and got into my car.
The wheels on my car went around and around.
I drove past the tall pine trees.
It was night and a star was shining in the sky.
As you can see, I am essentially just describing the pieces, so there is no need to memorize this script or say it exactly the way I have written it here. I have even sequenced the pieces to go down from left to right, ending with the star on top, but you can put the pieces down in any order that you wish. You can add more mathematical information by talking about the number of windows, wheels, and trees, the relative sizes (big or little), their location (on top, on the bottom), and/or the direction of the car.
Next I ask the children if they can identify the various shapes: square, circle, triangle, and star. You can make this game easier for younger children by identifying the shape name as you tell the story. For 5 year olds and up, you could simply omit this information and let them guess.
I admit that I may have gone a bit overboard by writing a song for the guessing game part, but remember how singing helps children hear the sounds in new words?
At the end of this post you will find a template for the flannel pieces (you can simply print this out with a color printer, cut, and glue to flannel. Tacky glue works best!) and the files (score and sound) for the Shape Song.
I encourage you to watch the Jo Schofield’s webinar, “Math Counts: Using Mathematics in Storytime.” If you are an ALSC member you can watch this archived webinar for free; non-members can access it for $25. This webinar has a lot of activities that you can easily incorporate into storytime, and in addition it includes suggestions for books that can teach particular concepts. For example, children can learn spatial sense through body movement as well. In her ALSC webinar, Jo Schofield suggests yoga and other movement activities to teach this concept.
I hope that you are seeing that you already have been a teacher of early math skills and can be an even more effective one. Our goal can to deepen understanding. With deep understanding, naming shapes is more than just reciting words; the idea of “circle” and “square” are things that have been repeatedly experienced in a variety of ways so that it becomes embedded in a child’s way of thinking. Math ability is said to be highly correlated with having this “number sense.”
 “Help Your Child Develop Early Math Skills.” Zero to Three. Viewed at https://www.zerotothree.org/resources/299-help-your-child-develop-early-math-skills 2019, December 31.