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Monday, September 10, 2012

Math Mats in Preschool

Lately I've been thinking about some of the more basic math skills that we work on in preschool:  identifying numerals, counting objects, and basic numeration concepts.  These are some of the most basic building blocks that math development is based upon.

While I usually do lots of activities that assess these skills (such as playing a Number Bingo game), it seems that sometimes I don't use enough "in action" activities.  What I mean by this are activities that allow me to sit alongside the students as they count, group, and explore objects as they develop these early math skills.

To this end, I've decided to increase four types of activities in my preschool classroom.  These are using math mats, using grid and line games, sorting objects and graphing.

Today I'm going to talk about math mats.

Math mats are helpful learning tools for allowing children to practice counting, identifying numerals as well as creating and comparing sets in a variety of settings.

Here are some specific skills that can be developed with Math Mats:

Quantifying:  Quantifying opportunities will abound when a child is given access to a math mat and interesting manipulatives.  Provide each child with a math mats and a container full of corresponding counters, erasers or the provided printed cards.  Ask children to put a certain number of manipulatives on each board. Check their counting (for assessment) and work together to correct if necessary.   Another possibility is to let them play with the manipulatives and put them freely on the board as they wish and then lead their learning with appropriate questions:

Oh, there are a lot of fish in your ocean.  How many fish are there?
Are there more farm animals on this board, or on that one?
How many more dinosaurs do you think will fit on that ship?  Let’s put them on and see if
they fit.

Recognizing Numerals: To provide opportunities for children to recognize numerals, provide number cards or dice.  Children sit with several math mats, as well as a handful of corresponding manipulatives.  They will also need a set of number cards (cards with numerals 1 - 9 on them).  To work with the math mats, they place a number card beside each math mat and place that number of manipulatives on each board.  As another option, the math mats can function as game boards.  Students work in small groups, with every child having one of the same math mat.  Children take turns rolling a die or spinning a spinner, and then place the corresponding number of manipulatives/cards on their mat.

Writing Numerals:  A step further in the developmental numeration process is to provide students with pieces of paper or sticky-backed notes to write down the number of how many manipulatives are on each board.

What kind of mats can you get?  Well, all kinds, really.  You could actually find mats for every theme that you study.  Here are a few pictures of mats from sets that I have created for my classroom. (You can find all of these sets for sale in my Teachers Notebook and Teachers Pay Teachers store - click on each picture to see the complete set.) :
Circus Math Mats
Beach Math Mats
Farm Math Mats
Tree Math Mats
Birthday Math Mats

Dinosaur Math Mats

Apple Wagon Math Mat
What kind of manipulatives, you ask?  Oh, the possibilities are endless.

One of the most available are erasers:

However, there are plastic counters, small toys, unit blocks, etc.  You can even use printed cards, although the Little People definitely seems to like the three-dimensional objects better.

An additional bonus to these math mats is that they double as playdough mats.

Which makes them even better for the Little People, in my opinion.

For more information on these mats, I would recommend Developing Number Concepts, Book 1: Counting, Comparing, and Pattern" by Kathy Richardson.  

Tomorrow:  Line and Grid Games.

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