For my kids, there is nothing more fun and exciting as playing with yardsticks, rulers and measuring tapes. These objects provide endless hours of fun in our household, namely, because my kids have discovered limitless uses for these tools of measurement. I am often astonished by my kids’ engagement and inventiveness when exploring in this manner – this is what makes learning math so cool!
In my previous blog, I discussed the creation of learning boxes and child-centered spaces in order to cultivate an inviting, investigative, and encouraging math environment for children of all ability levels. Objects are included in these boxes with the intent of inspiring young children’s curiosity, engaging participation in their own learning of skills and concepts, and encouraging discovery and innovation with the acquisition of new skills and concepts. Including rulers, tape measures, yard sticks and even yarn or string into your catalogue of math tools will boost a child’s investigative desire.
Measurement is one of the earliest mathematical concepts that children learn. Comparing the sizes of objects, determining which toy is the biggest, comparing which child is the tallest, and identifying that a plane is high up in the sky or a car is far away are all examples of how young learners begin to understand this concept. Building upon this understanding creates the foundation of logic, reasoning, comprehension and critical thinking skills necessary to set a child on a positive math journey. Exposure to these early experiences helps children begin to formulate interpretations of mathematical qualities in real-world problems.
Countless scholars and researchers have studied the significance of early math exposure, and the correlation between this and projected proficiency and success. Click here to listen to a top scholar discuss why early math matters! It is during the early years, that children acquire, practice, rehearse and build upon the skills that will eventually carry them through life.
One way I have found to engage young learners in the attainment of these skills is by allowing them to compare and measure. They often measure one another with yardsticks or tape measures, sometimes standing and other times lying on the ground. They have also traced one another with chalk on the driveway, and then measuring themselves that way. Often times they walk around our yard and measure flowers, plants and objects. This is a fun, entertaining and engaging activity, and they don’t even realize how much they are learning!
Recently, we realized that a sunflower seed we had planted was beginning to sprout and grow taller and taller. Each day my kids would observe the stalk getting bigger and bigger. First, it was taller than the grass, then the flowers, then each one of them! They loved seeing the change and comparing the height, and I enjoyed watching their amazement.
Finally, one day they asked if it was taller than I was, and it floored them to realize that it was! We decided to get out the yardstick and measure its final height, just as the sunflower’s face was beginning to bloom. We discussed how to measure an object and which end to start with. Then we had to do some adding, since the sunflower was taller than the yardstick (another discovery). We had a great time checking in on our gigantic plant each day, until we discovered that her head had gotten too heavy and had fallen to the ground. We did not stay upset too long, because soon they got the idea to get out the rulers and tape measures yet again to measure the width of that as well, which introduced a whole new math lesson on diameter and circumference!
Observing, measuring, comparing and analyzing the things around us helps young children make sense of their world. This can be an enjoyable way for young children to practice important math skills while guiding their own mastering of significant concepts. These experiences will then inspire, motivate and encourage them throughout their own life journey. I hope you enjoy fostering and cultivating your own special math adventures!