It’s time for our annual summer book study with Kindergarten Chaos! This year Abbie and I decided to a math book since there is so much information coming at us related to literacy and SOR. We thought we could all benefit from a summer of learning about math instruction! The book we chose is Exploring Mathematics Through Play In The Early Childhood Classroom.
The book is sold out on Amazon but it’s available for Kindle and on Google Books!
Here are my takeaways:
What Is Play?
The first thing I want to address is this: we all want more play in the classroom. Many of us are bound by district rules and requirements that limit this. It’s OK! Don’t let the pressure get you down. We’re doing the best we can! And we will keep fighting for what’s best for our students!
The author says for something to be considered play, it must be voluntary. This makes me think of our morning bins. The kids arrive and they can choose to eat breakfast or not, then they do their morning journal. After their journal, they get to voluntarily choose to play with toys OR read books. When they choose toys, they are free to play with them however they want. They can play alone or with others. I love watching how they use the toys and play with them in creative ways. And they’re learning some important mathematical concepts: spatial awareness, shapes, size, etc.
Choice and repetition are essential!
If you have read our blog, followed us on social media, or heard me speak, you know that choice is a major component in our classroom. Our students need choice and voice in their learning. When kids get to make choices, they choose things that they enjoy and things they want to do. This leads to more engagement, more learning, and fewer behavior issues. The author also discusses the importance of repetition with learning materials. Repeated opportunities with materials lead to learning perseverance! This is such an important piece of math instruction because we need our kids to preserve even when the skills are hard!
Another thought that struck me on the idea of repeated materials is that it applies across our day in the classroom with all materials. Whiteboards, magnetic letters, etc. That repetition is so important and is something we can’t overlook!
Play And Formal Math Instruction Are BOTH NECESSARY!
I think this is probably the biggest takeaway from chapter 1. While play is a must in the classroom and play can teach some valuable mathematics concepts, formal math instruction is also a must. You can’t have one or the other.
When kids are playing they are developing mathematical thinking but it’s not the same as learning mathematics content. Math content needs to be explicitly and systematically taught and practiced. I am currently reading and learning about the science of math and what the research is showing is that students need explicit instruction, guided practice, and independent practice when learning math skills and content. Basically, we need to be using “I do. We do. You do.” when teaching math content and skills.
This discussion really hits home for me because, for the last couple of years, our district has moved away from this explicit instruction in math and more towards math tasks. The explicit instruction happens but it’s limited and happens at the end of the lessons. What I’ve seen in my data and just in my classroom is that our math abilities are not where they have been in the past. What’s missing? The explicit instruction. I’m glad that the author addressed the need for play and formal instruction!
I look forward to the rest of the book and learning ways to bring more play into our classroom!