Number one for English language teachers

Keith's Corner: Entry 11: Toddlers and maths

In his eleventh diary entry, Keith offers up some fun ideas as he explains how he teaches maths to his youngest learners. Get your triangles at the ready!

Our teachers plan each Anglia School lesson with our learning wheel’s 7 core skills in mind. So not only are the activities we do with the kids definitely not boring, they are also educational in a number of ways. With that said, this month’s diary follows the diverse rhythms of the language of the universe – as defined by Renaissance man Galileo Galilei – whose language includes triangles, circles and many other geometrical figures.

Toddlers and counting

Teaching the ‘universal’ language of mathematics, by means of English, starts with our youngest pupils, the toddlers group. The main areas we focus on when working with this group are:

  • helping the kids get acquainted with the surrounding environment
  • laying the foundations for team-work and socialization
  • simple gross motor skills work

Early on in our toddlers’ lessons, we incorporate simple counting songs, such as Let’s Count 1-10, and counting games that fulfil the above objectives.

Counting activities are tightly integrated into almost all of our theme-based lessons. For example, when our theme is farm animals, an appropriate counting activity would be matching farm animals in groups on the left to numbers on the right. We always try where possible to use manipulables such as toy animals, so that the children can get their hands on the things they are counting.

A story involving numbers that our youngest learners always enjoy is Penny Dale’s Ten in the Bed, which we have in Big Book format. We get the kids to sit in a semi-circle and each pupil gets a puppet version of one of the animals in the book. Each page calls for counting and naming the animals left in the bed, as well as finding the ones that have fallen out.

Our Ten in the Bed storytime goes hand in hand with both role-play and songs. We set up our ‘bed’ on the classroom stage and the children act out the parts of the animals falling out of bed, repeating the words from the song.  

Toddlers and shapes

Fully in sync with Galileo’s definition, our toddlers are engaged in fun shapes work, starting with songs (like Shapes Song 1). We encourage the children to recognize the shapes around them and we play matching games. Some of these games are very active and full of energy, while others are quieter and require more concentration. It is often difficult for the children to work as a team at first but very rewarding for us when this gets easier over time.

For instance, with a farm animals theme, toddlers can develop their understanding and recognition of shapes by matching geometric cut-outs with farm animal drawings to corresponding outlines on paper or card.

Another matching game the kids greatly enjoyed was one where they had to fit sandpaper triangles of different sizes into the right outlines on a big piece of brown paper. To make this game more active and exciting, we put the children into two teams. Each team had its own red basin with sandpaper triangles and a rectangular-shaped tunnel made of card. The toddlers had to crawl through the tunnel to get to the brown paper with all the outlines. This way, their shape matching also became an activity in tunnel exploration!

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