How the Math Center Enhances Children's Development
While interacting in a well-developed math center, children have the opportunity to learn about the mathematical standards as defined by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM). These are numbers and operations, geometry, measurement, algebra, and data analysis. Although the early childhood teacher needs to provide experiences relating to each of these standards, the primary emphasis for pre-K through second-grade children is numbers and operations, geometry, and the measurement standards.
In addition, children in the early childhood years need to develop math process skills including problem solving, reasoning, communicating, connecting, and representing (NCTM, 2000). These process skills transcend mathematics, involving lifelong skills that children need to be successful in all areas of their lives. For example, in early childhood classrooms we can find many examples where children need to use problem-solving skills (planning a fair way to share a toy with a friend, determining a way to keep a tower of blocks from falling, or keeping a pool of water from sinking into the sand). We will explore each of these math processes in more depth.
Common steps for problem solving involve understanding the problem, making a plan for solving the problem, implementing the plan, and reflecting to see if the solution works or the answer makes sense (Copley, 2000). Problem solving not only entails learning and practicing these steps but also acquiring dispositions to problem solve. “An effective problem solver perseveres, focuses his attention, tests hypotheses, takes reasonable risks, remains flexible, tries alternatives, and exhibits self regulation” (Copley, 2000, p. 31).
When children reason they “draw logical conclusions, apply logical classification skills, explain their thinking, justify their problem solutions and processes, apply patterns and relationships to arrive at solutions, and make sense out of mathematics and science” (Charlesworth, 2005, p. 142).
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