The National Institute for Early Education Research states that preschool-age children have a natural curiosity and an innate understanding of math and science. Young children have a natural desire to learn and use scientific and mathematical skills in everyday play. Preschool is a logical place to begin teaching about math and science because children are open to learning about new concepts and theories. Preschool teachers can do many things to stimulate an early interest in math and science by establishing a learning environment rich in research and problem-solving activities.
In addition to the traditionally used reading and writing centers, preschool teachers can easily implement centers that focus on math and science concepts. Simple materials such as magnifying glasses, scales, clay and models are inexpensive and naturally stimulate curiosity. A preschool teacher can incorporate science and math lessons into other daily activities as well. After reading a book, children could explore science and math concepts discussed in the book through the use of science centers.
The HighScope Educational Research Foundation states that children naturally begin to take note of mathematical relationships by discovering and examining their environment. Children can make both math and science connections by taking note of similarities and differences observed in nature. For example, a preschool teacher could lead students on a leaf hunt and observe the different sizes and shapes of leaves. Children could practice counting, patterns, sorting, and color recognition with leaves. Magnifying glasses could be used to study the cells that make up a plant. The teacher could lead the class in creating a simple book detailing the findings of the class. This interdisciplinary approach easily combines many subjects into one lesson, using materials easily found in their own environment.
A preschool teacher can use a child’s natural curiosity to inspire them to ask questions and find solutions to math and science problems. The Albert Shanker Institute recognizes that a child’s natural curiosity and tendency to ask many questions about the surrounding world leads to scientific inquiry and investigative problem-solving. Open-ended questions lead the children to a deeper investigation. A preschool teacher may begin a science lesson by discussing a topic that many of the children are interested in, such as dinosaurs. The discussion could lead to an experiment or simple research activity to expand the science lesson. Math lessons could be explored in a similar fashion. The preschool teacher could lead children in a hands-on block building activity, using measurement, prediction and other math skills.
The role of the preschool teacher in continuing learning of science and math is to offer opportunities for children to investigate topics once the initial lesson is over. Making resources available for children to use at their discretion will lead to a love of learning about science and math. Providing time for independent exploration will allow students to choose topics of particular interest and continue to learn at their own pace.
- National Institute for Early Education Research: Math and Science in Preschool: Policies and Practice
- PBS Teachers: Science in the Classroom
- HighScope Educational Research Foundation: Mathematics
- National Institute for Early Education Research: Yet More Evidence: It’s Time to Strengthen Math, Science in Pre-K
- The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics: Mathematics in the Preschool
- The Albert Shanker Institute: Preschool Curriculum: What’s in it for Children and Teachers
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