Space, Shapes, and Relationships

by Early Math Counts

Young children begin thinking spatially as early as the first time they play “dropsy” and their caregiver retrieves the fallen object and declares,

“Oh, did you drop your _______?”

What fun it is for the child to drop the same item again and again, exploring the depths of her caregiver’s patience.  Exploring the concepts of “where?” and “how far?” are a very young child’s entrance into the world of spatial sense.

Children develop spatial thinking the skills associated with imagining objects in different positions as well as their movements – over a long period of time and are  necessary building blocks in constructing logico-mathematical knowledge.

How do we support these emerging skills?  As with all other mathematical concepts, the introduction of vocabulary is one sure way to begin and reinforce the ideas.  When you present a puzzle for a young child to solve, be sure to support his attempts with spatial language such as; “try it upside-down,” “turn it over,” “move the piece up or down,” etc. You can also support these emerging concepts by playing games, presenting challenges, using math manipulatives, and in dramatic play.

Try hiding an important toy in the classroom and then give spatial clues so the children can search for it.  Hide an object in the sand table and create a simple map that leads the children to the treasure.  Play “hotter and colder” as children try to locate an item.  Later, tangrams and more sophisticated puzzles will challenge the children’s thinking and support their growing spatial sense.

13 Replies to “Space, Shapes, and Relationships”

  1. When we talked about Christopher Columbus we created a map to find a treasure outside. that took the children over, under, through, and around objects.

    1. Nice. Treasure maps or any maps in general are especially good tools if you are using them for game play. Orienting the map is really hard at the beginning but starting simple makes a big difference.

    2. This is a good example to introduce kids on shapes because they can start to know that a map can be a circle or any figure.

    3. This is a good example to introduce kids on shapes because they can start to know that a map can be a circle or any figure.

  2. I have done scavenger hunts with my class. Its not quite a map but it gives spatial clues on where to go next. On St. Patrick’s Day we set traps for a Leprechaun who leave us a silly map with Rhymes along the way to find his Pot o’ Gold.

  3. It seems so simple to teach shapes. And while these suggestions are sincerely great, they aren’t over complicated. However, the trick is intentionality! We have to make sure our words are always a part of the child’s learning. When we find a child playing “dropsy”, we have to see the opportunity and be prepared to participate and engage. We can guide and encourage and teach so much just through purposeful questions and conversation! I love how this post highlights that!

  4. When we are working on our letters, we hid them around the room. Then once they find it, they not only have to say the letter, but describe where they found it.

  5. A treasure map made by the children in the classroom is a wonderful idea to have them search for a special toy for to discuss the shape.

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