At Little People’s Montessori Pre-School, the children are exposed to extensive educational materials that are presented to the children every day. The children get individual attention with the teacher. To follow are some of the classroom activities as well as some information describing these activities.
Learning to classify things is a very important pre-math skill for children. To classify, you can categorise, or group sounds, objects, movements, smells and ideas – based on commonalities or attributes.
Children need an enriched environment to attain varied experiences in classifying and soring. Classifying and sorting experiences and activities are the first activities that guide young learners to see a collection of similarities that are interesting to them. To assist in the development in mathematical thinking and encouraging this pre-math concept, we as educators need to provide activities, materials and games for the learners. Classification games not only increase children’s logical thinking skills but also reinforce math vocabulary. An understanding of association that things which can be put together for the reason that they are alike and belong together. Sorting and classifying are skills that a child will use in all areas of their life both home and school; For example, the child packs away (hopefully) and organises clothes and shoes.
Practical example 1: Sorting and Classifying Shapes
We have variety of mixed shapes of different sizes and colours. The child will sort the shapes as follows:
- Placing all the squares together, triangles together, and diamonds together.
- The child will then classify the shapes into a large triangle section and a small triangle section apart from each other.
- The child will then classify the other two shapes (diamonds and squares) into large and small piles.
Benefit: This activity helps improve the child’s visual perception of size and shape.
Figure 1.1: Sorting and classifying shapes
Figure 1.2: Shapes sorted
Figure 1.3: Shapes classified into big and small classifications.
Practical example 2: Sorting beans and seeds activity
The aim of this activity is to develop fine muscle skills, visual perceptual understanding of similarities and discrimination of varying size. The child should be able to separate the three size varied seeds/beans into each successive bowl/container.
1x tray to work on
3x small open containers/bowls
1x larger container/bowl
Pack of seeds and beans or similar food.
Set out the activity as shown in Figure 2.1. Let the child sort the seeds/beans into the three different bowls. The child can sort the items based on size. See figures 2.2 & 2.3.
Figure 2.1 Layout of bean/seed activity prior to child starting.
Figure 2.2: Child sorting differentiating the different types/sizes/shapes of the items
Figure 2.3: Classifying – large medium and small
Benefit: This activity helps develop fine muscle skills with the use of fingers – grasping small objects, visual discrimination – sorting different objects and finding similarities. Language enrichment using words such as small, smaller, smallest or large, larger, largest.
2) COMPARING (matching)
Children experience new ideas daily through play and other encounters. Through their interactions and day-today experience, children develop a knowledge and become familiar with certain objects and surroundings. To match and compare familiar objects can be fun and helps children to experience a success because they have a pre-knowledge of the items. As teachers we need to create an environment rich in experiences and language to give the children the pre-knowledge to compare and match successfully.
Comparing objects by measurable characteristics and hands on classroom activities, gives children practice at basic measuring and comparing based on size. Using actual objects allows the learners to manipulate and physically compare the items. It is important to create numerous opportunities for learners to handle and explore objects and to note their critical features of shape, size, position in space, and length.
Practical example 1: Stereognostig bag
I put different objects into a bag, namely: an orange, sponge, soft toy, toy frog, toy car, 2 threading beads- circular and square, and a large pink cube.
With eyes closed the child chooses two objects from the bag and feels them to discover which object is bigger, smaller, heavier or softer. The child develops tactile discrimination skills through feeling the objects without auditory or visual clues. They develop language skills using words like softer, heavier, rough, smooth, large and small when describing their chosen objects back to the teacher. The child develops gross and fine muscle strength using hand, fingers and arm muscles. Please see figures 3.1-3.3
Figure 3.1 Bag with its contents
Practical example 2: The ice-cream stick star and number games
Resources: set of ice cream sticks, stick on starts, table, a set of numbers.
Figure 4.1 The sticks and stars.
This game can be played alone or in pairs – with or without the teacher.
The first iteration of this game can be played as follows (as shown in figure 4.2):
The teacher selects a number from the wooden numbers. In the case of the figure below, the teacher selected number 1. The children then need to match their sticks with the number. Thus, the number selected was 1 and the children need to find a corresponding stick with a single star on it. The figure shows the children selected a stick with only 1 star and they both got the matching correct.
The second iteration of this game which focusses more on the comparing skill, requires the children to determine the concepts of equal to, less than or more than. In this case the children will randomly choose a stick each, compare their stick to each other and then determine who has the stick with more stars, less stars or possibly equal stars.
3) SERIATION/SEQUENCE FORMATION
Sequencing involves placing objects, events or other related items in a particular order. Seriation/Sequencing is a basic concept that children must understand in practicing ordering of objects, quantities of numbers according o a specific criteria. As with all pre-number concepts children must begin working with real objects for the learner to grasp a concept of seriation/sequence formation. The concepts of classification and seriation can be taught in conjunction with each other; for example, after a child can match and sort according to size, they can work on ordering the objects from largest to smallest. Using good key-words like “first”, “next”, “then”, and “finally”, allows the child to see what is coming next.
Practical example 1: Sequencing picture cards
This activity is related to familiar events that the learner can relate to. The box of sequencing cards consists of 5 sets of 4 related cards that the learner should sequence from left to right in order based on the information depicted on each card.
Figure 5.1: Picture cards showing different activities on each card. The child is to select the picture card and order them according to which activities take place first.
The stories in the sequencing cards are: going shopping with mom, running races, painting a picture, buying an ice cream and lastly, baking muffins.
This activity helps develop left to right progression, cognitive thinking and reflection in sequencing events. The learner is developing an understanding to order the sequence of events developing an understanding of ordinal numbers. It gives an opportunity to the child to test perceptual memory and make them reflect during the activity calling on past experiences, allowing for children to grasp past, present and future tenses. Their observations can be subjected to time framing and progression of time.
Practical example 2: Bead sequencing activity.
This activity consist of a variety of different shaped and coloured beads. There are sequence boards that act as examples for the ordering of the beads that the child should follow. This can be done on a stick or a string. Please see figure 5.3 for the picture of the child performing this task.
Figure 5.3: Sequencing the beads.
This activity is a great opportunity to develop planning, directionality and left to right top to bottom understanding. This activity also develops visual discrimination skills of colour and shape according to a set pattern. Language skills and ordinal number understanding are also improved with these activities.
Practical example 3: Number and counter sequencing.
The activity we use has numbers 1 to 10 printed on square blocks, wooden sticks ranging from short to tall, and different colour counters that fit on the sticks. Figure 5.4 shows the activity. The child starts the activity by placing the wooden sticks in the allocated holes from short to tall – starting from left working to the right. Then the child is required to arrange the numbers 1 to 10 adding the counters to the corresponding number, placing the correct number dotted clock with the corresponding quantity. This activity helps to develop comparison of height, quantity, counting, sequencing discrimination skills. Fine muscle development using fingers and hands and language development.
Figure 5.4: Using the number counter
Patterning is the arranging of objects to a set out repeated order or pattern. Patterns are all around us, from prints on clothing we wear, shoes, to repeated patterns found in nature. Patterns are also found in behaviours from daily routines to human relationships. It is also a math skill upon which many mathematical concepts are based. Addition, times-tables and skip counting require an understanding or proficiency of patterning. For learners at pre-school, identifying and creating patterns is the beginning or perfecting mathematical skills. Teachers can use real objects familiar to the learner to give them a good foundation in mathematical thinking. Things become a patterns when there repetition. Encouraging children to see patterns around them such as stripes on a shirt, checks on clothing etc, assists in their improved awareness and observation of their environment.
Patterns used in whole body movements can also be beneficial and great fun. For example, ask the child to jump then hop and repeat the pattern. We can also use food to create patterns such as using different grains, and seeds.
Practical example: Lego patterning activity
We use a Lego block mat and a box of large Lego or Duplo pieces. The teacher starts the activity with a predictable block pattern and the learner can copy or follow the block pattern from left to right. This activity is fun and develops fine muscle coordination and visual discrimination of colours, shapes and form, and an experience of left to right progression and language enrichment.
Figure 6.1: Child patterning using Lego.
Practical example 2: Patterning objects on block paper.
Draw criss-cross lines on blank paper, which will be used in the patterning formation activity. Select a few foam rubber objects for example, flowers of different shapes and colours, sail boats, ships, aeroplanes and small cars. The teacher starts the pattern in the first line. The learner then copies the pattern as the teacher had already set out as the example pattern. This activity assists in the development in understanding and predicting patterns. Fine muscle development and discrimination skills or size, shape and colour are part of this activity.
See figure 6.2 for example.
Figure 6.2: Example of child following pattern set by teacher.
Conservation of numbers means a person is able to understand that the number of objects remains the same even when rearranged. Children should have experiences of one-to-one matching, in understanding conservation of numbers. They should also see numbers in a variety of ways; for example, using loose objects and not on a dice. Children aged 2 to 6 years are still developing conservation of number understanding and when the same number of objects are rearranged will say that total has increased. From the age range of 6 to 8 years, children are now at a cognitive level and can conserve number length, liquid and mass. Teachers need to use correct language when ascertaining whether a child has an understanding of conservation. For example, if the teacher asks in a vague manner “is this the same?” or “is this different?” the teacher may not determine if the learner has gained understanding of conservation. Rather, the teacher should ask “are there the same amount of sticks in the group?” – see figure 6.3. The layout of the sticks may differ but the number of sticks stays the same. The teacher may obtain a false positive result by not being specific.
Practical example 1: Conservation using sticks.
Using coloured wooden sticks, ask the child to count 10 sticks and lay them out in a row from left to right. Then ask the child to count another 10 sticks and is asked to place them in a row from top to bottom. The child is then asked if the number of sticks is the same in each group. The activity can be done with more or less sticks.
The learner gains an understanding of conservation of numbers. The layout of the sticks does not change the quantity.
The learner gains improved one-to one counting skills, fine muscle control, and discrimination of direction and shape.
Figure 6.3: Conservation activity using sticks.
Practical example 2: Conservation example using beads and sets
Using different shaped and coloured threading beads, lay out 5 same coloured beads spaced closely together. Then lay out in the second row also use five beads but now space them further apart. Ask the learner to make the same pattern and then ask the learner if they have the same number of beads. The learner should see that even though the spacing is different for the two rows, the bead count remains equal. If they cannot deduce this, they are asked to count and prove it to themselves. The purpose of this activity is to demonstrate that the amount of items placed in the row may be the same as in the other row, even though the total area used by one row is larger.
Figure 7.1 Using beads to teach conservation
Using the same bead activity, one can also ask the learner to make sets of five beads each in a different colour using string as shown in Figure 7.2
Figure 7.2: Learning how to group items into sets.
The learner develops conservation of numbers, visual discrimination of space and direction, one-to-one counting and patterning skills making groups and sets, flowing instructions and improved fine muscle control.
(c) 2014. Anne Baron. Little People’s Montessori Pre-School. Germiston. South Africa.
Please note that the images on this site intentionally do not show the faces of the children. To maintain the privacy of the children the images are of low resolution with children specifically asked to look away from the camera.
Davin, R. (2013). Handbook for Grade-R teaching. Pearson. Cape Town. South Africa.
Van Schalkwyk, A. & Motitswe, J.M.C. (2013). Programme in Grade-R teaching. UNISA.CTCET.