Amy Maney, Preschool Coordinator
Children are active agents in their environments and learn through creating and playing with interesting materials. As a three year old engages in imaginative play and uses jewels to represent muffins in a muffin tin, he is learning that the numbers he can "count" actually represent something.
In a different classroom, another three year old is exposed to one to one correspondence during snack time where the teachers have set our self-serve snack with either the number or corresponding dots to let the children know how many snack items to take. There is a correspondence of one jewel to one muffin hole in the first scenario and a building of one to one correspondence in the second scenario as the child chooses her snack in accordance with the number.
In another classroom across the hall, a four year old notices similarities and differences among the buttons she is exploring in a tray full of different buttons. She begins to sort or classify the same buttons together, and through her discoveries, begins to notice there are different ways to sort items, and begins to sort the buttons into subgroups. In the room next door, the children are using loose parts to represent their family members which also builds math into the curriculum as they represent their families and then compare their sizes stating that they made themselves the smallest and their daddy the biggest and also "there's three people in my family and four people in yours!"
These are big math concepts being explored by preschoolers on a daily basis and the teachers are present, observing and asking questions to extend the children's thinking.
Math concepts are very abstract and children learn about them through tangible items.
In preschool there is math happening all around us and it's not always right in the forefront, but it is always there. We provide the materials and provocations for children to explore these concepts at their own pace and through repetition. We set up rituals and often times math concepts and number sense are a part of that. Chances are, your preschooler is unaware they are "learning math" but they are working on the foundational math skills for all future learning.