Saturday, 30 March 2013

Mathematics and Young Children

How do we teach Mathematics to young children? I strongly agree that the teachers need to thoroughly understand the concept and content that they are teaching. Equipped with the essential mathematical knowledge, teachers will then be able to be an effective math teacher who will provide high quality mathematics education for the children.

In school, we teach math in a fun way by using games and real life experiences. For example, when teaching ordinal numbers, we get the children involved in a race using toy cars. The children will stand side by side behind the line and push their cars across. The children will get to identify and label which car came first, second, third, etc. We like to emphasize to the children that math is used in everyday life and is all around us. We bring the children out to walk in the neighborhood and identify all the numbers and shapes. When teaching about money, we set up a supermarket corner for the children to get involved in counting money. Apart from that, the children also went to the local supermarket to have the real experience in purchasing with real money.

According to Jean Piaget, constructivism is the key to learning math. He believed that learners are not blank slates but rather creators of their own learning. It is said that children build or construct their own knowledge by integrating new concepts into existing mental structures. Children create or recreate mathematical concepts in their own minds.  Lev Vygotsky on the other hand, believed that information which is internalized depends on whether it was within a learner’s zone of proximal development (ZPD). It refers to the difference between what a learner can do without help (on his own) and what he can do with help. Teachers need not strictly choose between the two theories, but in fact we need to create opportunities for the children to construct ideas or to provide tools to promote mediation in the classroom.

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