Mathematical Storytime, Part 3
Playing games in storytime isn’t just fun and engaging; it isn’t just something that even gets adults to put down their phones. It’s actually a powerful way to teach math.
Think of math as the study of patterns in the universe. Zero to Three has identified pattern recognition as one of the key early math skills, but math actually is the study of patterns. Patterns are things—numbers, shapes, images—that repeat in a logical way. Patterns help children learn to make predictions, to understand what comes next, to make logical connections, and to use reasoning skills.
An example of teaching pattern recognition is the sock matching game, which you can find on Flannel Friday. I made one of these but made the dryer out of a mylar bag; a bag is much easier to store than a box. Since glue does not stick to mylar, I just stapled the dryer pieces onto the bag. You can use fewer or more pairs of socks depending on the age of the children in storytime. Below you will find the files for the song that I sing when whenever we get a match.
As we have seen in the last two posts, we can be teachers of early math skills. In fact we already have been doing so all along, just as we have all along been teachers of the five early literacy skills — singing, talking, reading, writing, and playing. Now we can teach these with more awareness and intention.
“I’m not a math person” is a phrase I have heard many people say, even when talking about math activities for young children. As librarians we believe that it’s never too late to become a reader. Yet math is somehow different; we have been taught to believe that you have ability or you don’t.
But it turns out that this is not true. The brain actually continues to have the capacity to grow throughout one’s life. Dr. Jo Boaler, professor at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education, believes that everyone has the ability to learn to do math at the highest level. If you feel skeptical, I recommend everyone to take her free online class for students (six 15-minute segments) at YouCubed.org.
Your beliefs about this matter really do make a difference. For example, in Mathematical Mindsets, Dr. Boaler cites a study that shows that girls in a class do more poorly in math than boys when they have a female teacher that says she is not good at math. But believing in your mathematical self can actually help you get better at math. In fact, making mistakes can cause more brain growth than getting the right answer.
Just as we envision a reader in every child, so must we envision a mathematician in every child. You can make a difference in a child’s life with storytime activities. But to do so, we have to start with ourselves.