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Mixing Colors

by Early Math Counts

photo (36)My second son Louie attended the most wonderful little preschool when he was 4 years old. It was nurturing, warm, and inviting. Each and every part of the program was thoughtfully planned and executed.  It was a joy.

This week I received the above card from them.  According to the card:

“Our curriculum goal for this project presented an introduction to color theory and language arts.  We studied color.  We read about color.  We predicted what happens when colors are mixed.  We recognized that just “red” can be “brick red” or “fire engine red”.  In collaboration with our Artist in Residence, Melanie Liss, students mixed and named their own paints.

The project resulted in a gorgeous array of paint colors that were used throughout the school year and on a variety of individual and collaborative projects.” (Mary Meyer Preschool, 2014)

photo (35)This is such a lovely example of meaningful documentation of children’s work.  It is hard to see from these pictures, but each child mixed his/her own paint and then named it.  The names are wonderful; fish green, candlelight orange, dragon bee green, little night night pink.

It also got me thinking about how even a project such as this (one really focused on creative art) can also be a springboard for supporting math concepts in several ways, but most obviously through the use mathematical language.  Imagine the children mixing the colors, while the teacher asks them if they want to add more red or more yellow.  Quantity is a central concept in paint mixing so it makes sense to incorporate ideas about quantity and questions about how much throughout the activity.  There are also opportunities for comparisons.  Which one bluer?  Is it a darker blue than the sky or a lighter blue?  These qualifying terms help children consider the relationships between the colors they’ve made or the colors between their colors and objects in the world.

This may be obvious, but if you get too focused on the other aspects of the activity, the math can get left behind.  This idea gets to the root of what we are trying to do here at Early Math Counts.  Math is everywhere.  It is in everything we do with children, and in each area of the classroom, but we need to bring it to the surface and prioritize it.


2 Replies to “Mixing Colors”

  1. Hi Jen!

    What a wonderful lesson ! We are working to complete lesson plans for the Curriculum Webs we are developing- This is one of the most fascinating math/science moments yet- I love the way the children are exposed to the diversity of color as they discover the math we use to cause this change and on a broader level, how the culture of care in the classroom community can be expanded to a culture of care for nature and other areas of life

    I know we will be talking about this activity in Class this week

    1. I know and I completely agree. This is such a great integrated activity. It includes so many of the content areas and it was probably really engaging for the kids. Brilliant.

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