Math and science are important ways that preschoolers can learn about the world around them. As they come to understand basic math and science concepts, they will develop new interests and skills that will help them as they move on to kindergarten and beyond. Math and science activities will also encourage a preschooler to think creatively and look at things a little bit different than they did before.
Below are some basic math & science skills and a brief description of how very young children can experience them. This list is by no means comprehensive! (I found this list somewhere on the internet, but I can't for the life of me find the web address. My apologies for not being able to give proper credit... I will keep looking for the site and link to it when I find it!)
- Size: Babies notice that they are “small” and mom is “big” before they know what those word mean.
- Cause & Effect Relationships: Infants become aware of how their actions impact their surroundings, for example, they become aware that if they shake a rattle, it will make noise.
- Classifying: Classifying is putting objects into sets based on common traits. Even babies start classifying objects in simple ways. For example, they come to realize which of their toys make noise, and which ones do not.
- Predicting: Predicting involves guessing what will happen, based on previous experiences. For example, when kids hear the water running in the tub, they may “predict” that bath time is near.
- Rote counting: Rote counting is based on memorization of number order. Toddlers learn to count (usually up to 5 or 10) before they know what the numbers mean and often skip, or repeat, numbers.
- Meaningful Counting: Young children come to understand the use of numbers through exploration. They learn that counting can be used for objects, such as how many raisins they have for snack, and can successfully count a small number of items. Assigning a number to an object is the developmental milestone known as one-to-one correspondence. They will also notice if someone has “more” raisins than they have and will begin to recognize written numbers.
- Identifying Shapes: Toddlers and preschoolers can recognize simple geometric shapes, such as circles, squares, etc. They may announce that their cracker is a circle.
- Cause & Effect Predictions: As children develop, they become more aware of how their actions impact their surroundings. Toddlers know that when they hit a block tower they built, it will topple. Older toddlers and preschoolers may be able to “predict” what a story will be about by looking at the picture on the cover.
- Spatial Relationships: Toddlers & preschoolers come to understand the relationship between shapes or objects. When they work on puzzles, their concept of “part-to-whole” relationships develops. They start using “positional” words to explain spatial relationships, such as, “The dog is under the table,” or, “I’m sitting in front of you.”
- Seriation / Ordering: Seriation is putting objects in a particular order, such as size; for example, lining crayons up in order from shortest to longest.
- Sequencing & Patterning: A repeated sequence is a pattern. Young children notice and experiment with patterns. For example, when stacking blocks, they may stack them in a black - white - black sequence. Two- and three-year-olds can usually sequence up to three items.
- Matching: Matching involves finding objects that are alike, or the same. Young children may match blocks, or household items, such as plates. Once children can match, they can learn how to compare, and then physically classify (sort) items.
- Comparing & Classifying: Comparing involves identifying similarities and differences among objects. As children develop, they start to use comparative language, such as, “My cup is the biggest!” Once children can compare objects, they learn how to sort, or “classify” them by one characteristic, such as color or size. For example, three- and four-year olds are able to create a set by putting all the “blue blocks” in a pile. Four- and five-year-olds can usually compare objects that are familiar to them, even if those objects are not in sight.
- Time: Young children do not understand abstract ideas about time, for example, “The drive to grandma’s house is two hours,” and they can not understand clocks. However, they do have basic ideas about time, such as they eat breakfast in the morning and go to bed after dinner.
- Measuring: Young children do not understand what “12 inches” means, but they can grasp that mommy is taller than grandma.