• assessment: an accounting of what learners know using objective evidence. Informal assessment is ongoing as adults monitor young children’s learning each day
  • math concepts: early ideas about numbers, counting, shapes, measurement, time, greater than, less than, money
  • math language: commonly used math vocabulary, such as more, less, how many in all, fewer, add, take away, number, triangle, square, and circle
  • open-ended questions: questions that require critical thinking, invite opinion or explanation, and result in more than a one-word answer

Integrate Math into Daily Activities

Before watching this video, read the text below. When instructed, watch the video from the beginning to end.

The early childhood center offers a wealth of opportunities each day for children to think mathematically during daily calendar activities, snack time, read alouds, outdoor play, in learning centers, and so on. You can use these experiences, whether formal or informal, planned or organic, to prepare a child for deeper mathematical learning.

  • Use routine play experiences to encourage children to use their mathematical vocabulary. For example, incorporate words such as more, less, bigger, shorter, and counting into conversation during art projects, block play, snack time, and physical play.
  • Utilize learning centers to provide opportunities for children to connect prior knowledge to newly-learned concepts and vocabulary. For example, the Pretend and Play Center might include play money, a scale for weighing, or a yardstick for measuring. In the Block Center, children can group similar shapes together. While painting or drawing in the Art Center, children can trace and identify shapes or identify structures as bigger, smaller, longer, or shorter. In the Library Center, children can browse number and counting books.
  • Provide a range of materials that support mathematical learning, such as number cards for number recognition, connecting cubes for counting, or nonstandard measuring tools. Scales can help children weigh and compare. Number puzzles and giant hopscotch games are also fun learning tools.

In this video, you’ll see educators offer children a rich menu of math-based learning throughout the day. As you watch, look for effective strategies used by the educators in the video and jot down answers to these viewing questions in your Learning Log.

  • How is math integrated into daily activities?
  • How do the learning centers encourage children to use math concepts (such as counting, measuring, and sorting)?


Why is it important to teach math concepts or ideas in a variety of settings?

  • Most children need to practice and reinforce a skill or concept over time, in different formats, and in several contexts to help them thoroughly understand the concept.

How can you utilize everyday activities to encourage children’s use of math?

  • In addition to providing specific instruction, embed math learning in nearly all activities of the day. For example, children might count, sort, compare, measure, sing counting songs, and participate in counting games and puzzles to practice skills.
  • Use daily routines (such as outdoor games or exercise, lining up, waiting a turn, gathering in a circle, and tidying up) to teach and use basic mathematical language and concepts such as first, next, last, bigger, smaller, more, less, fewer, and how many in all.
  • Look for opportunities during typical classroom experiences. For example, children could count the number of days in a week or the months in a year, the number of children in a circle, or the number of children wearing red sneakers. They could determine who is first or last in line and who has more letters in his or her name. Children could also draw shapes in chalk on outside play areas to help with geometric recognition.

How can you design learning centers to promote children’s use of mathematical concepts and vocabulary?

  • Design learning centers to support the natural exploration of mathematical concepts and vocabulary. Here children can explore by themselves and/or with the support and guidance of an educator. For example,
    • In the Science and Math Center, offer connecting cubes, counters, number lines, hundreds charts, and other manipulatives to help children discover patterns and compare shapes, sizes, length, height, and width.
    • Playing in the Block Center gives children the opportunity to explore, identify, and understand physical relationships and balance, and supports learning about measuring and comparing (e.g., longer, shorter, wider).
    • As children draw or paint in the Art Center, they work with shapes, colors, patterns, textures, size, and shape.
    • The Pretend and Play Center can become a restaurant, store, or a bakery, where play money is exchanged, plates are counted, and snacks are shared evenly. Environmental print on signs announcing prices, times, and “specials” of the day (buy 2 apples here) provide additional math and reading opportunities.
    • Reading counting and other number books is a great way for children to learn math vocabulary and concepts.
    • At the Sensory Table Center, children can measure and compare amounts of water or sand, fill and empty different-sized containers, and estimate how many cups or teaspoons will fill a container.


Think about your own program as you answer these reflection questions in your Learning Log.

  • Which learning areas are working well to encourage children’s mathematical thinking? Which could be improved?
  • What adjustments could you make in the setup or materials offered in those areas?
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