Math is found in real-life situations is the approach teachers take towards teaching
mathematics at Arlitt. Rather than assign a designated "math time" or use flash cards, teachers
integrate mathematics throughout the classroom and create meaningful math experiences
for the children. When problems that involve math are in the context of their daily lives,
children are more likely to engage in math and thus develop higher-level thought processes.
Teachers also believe that, as with literacy, mathematical understanding develops in stages and
children must be given time to develop mathematical concepts. They must be allowed to make
mistakes and have opportunities to solve their own problems, rather than have the teacher
provide the "correct answer." When children are allowed to make mistakes and solve their
problems, they develop confidence that they can do math. While there is a designated area for
math games, meaningful math experiences can be found throughout each classroom.
Numerous mathematical concepts can be found in the block area. For example, a group of
children decide that they want to build a dinosaur house. They discuss which shapes will be
big enough for the dinosaurs to stand on and which shapes need to go on the roof (sorting and
classification). They count how many rectangles they have (quantification). When they do not
have enough, they place two squares together create a rectangle. The children place all of the
large blocks on one side and the smaller ones on the other. When the house topples over, they
discuss what made the house fall. They determine that the house needs to have the same size
blocks on both sides (symmetry) in order to not fall down. One child decides to make a path to
the house and alternates squares and triangles (patterning).
Dramatic play provides rich opportunities for children to solve math problems in the context
of their lives. For instance, four children are playing in a dramatic play area that is arranged
as a kitchen. At the table are four chairs. A child places one plate and one cup at each place
(one-to-one correspondence). Another child comes over and says that he wants to play too.
He goes to the teacher and says "I don't have a plate." The teacher comes over to dramatic
play and asks, "How many plates do we need so that everyone can have one?" The child
looks at the table and counts (quantification), "One, two, three, four ... we need one more for
me!" He goes to the art area and cuts a circle out of construction paper. He brings it back to
dramatic play and says, "Now we all have a plate!" As they eat the children decide that they
want dessert. A child brings 15 cookies over. She places a cookie on each plate until all of the
children have three cookies (division).
Group time provides teachers with an opportunity to focus on specific mathematical concepts.
However, it is important to make the experiences meaningful so the children will be able to
generalize these concepts into their everyday experiences. The teacher begins group by singing
a welcome song that includes each child's name. As the names are sung the teacher places
them on the ground. After the song the teacher asks the children to help count how many
children are at school (quantification). Next, the teacher brings out a graph with a list of three
books. The children will be voting on which book is their favorite. After each child votes the
teacher asks which book had the most votes and which had the least. The children discuss with
their teacher that the book with the bigger number of votes had the most and the book with
the smallest number had the least (quantifiers).
There are many occasions for children to participate in mathematical thinking and problem-
solving in the art area of the classroom. One day, the teacher placed grid paper and bingo
markers at the easel. One child used a green bingo marker and made one mark on each space
(one-to-one correspondence). Another child alternated red and yellow marks (patterning).
At the art table a child is making a collage. She glues all of the pink materials on the top of
her paper, all of the green in the middle, and all of the yellow on the bottom (sorting and