Often, parents and grandparents wonder when we’ll start teaching Math in Pre-K. What they are really wondering is when we’ll begin using traditional equations to represent abstract mathematical data. To be honest, you won’t find many traditional equations in Pre-K. Instead, we focus on the underlying concepts needed to understand adding more to, or taking some away from, a set.
For the past week, we’ve been exploring making sets of numbers in more than one way. With our first experiment, we used two colors of links and asked the children to make a chain of 8. As the children had not yet been exposed to this type of activity, they naturally fell back on what they knew. Without any further prompting, every child made a pattern with the two colors of links. This vividly showed us that, although they had a strong understanding of patterning, they really weren’t sure what we were aiming for with our seemingly vague directions.
So, after a few Morning Meeting discussions and rearrangements of link/chain distribution over two days, the children began to see what we were practicing. Once they were able to design chains with two colors to make sets of 9 with confidence, we moved on to more complicated directions.
Our most recent attempt opened up the number of colors available. Each child was free to choose any two colors and create a set of 10. Their goal was to try to come up with a set that didn’t match any other student’s. As you can see, at this point, most of them are still focusing on the color differences rather than the quantity differences within the sets. They are just beginning to realize that some of the number sets look the same even though the color sets differ. As we continue to practice this way of thinking, the properties of sets will become more solid for them.