• 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

Use the Language of Math

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

To help children develop mathematical ideas and be able to express them naturally, you can “flood the environment” with mathematical talk and concepts, and encourage children to use math talk, too.

  • Beginning and ending the day routines offer rich opportunities for math talk. For example,
    • lining up (Let’s count the number of boys and girls in line.)
    • sorting classroom items (How many red buttons did you find?)
    • taking attendance (We have more boys than girls today.)
  • Calendar routines give children daily experience in counting, number recognition, pattern recognition, and concepts of before, after, more than, less than, first, next, and last.
  • Outdoor or active play promotes the use of various math words and math ideas, such as circle, line, before, after, next, triangle, more, fewer, shorter, longer, and add.
  • Snack time offers many opportunities to introduce math language. Concepts of shape, size, quantity, position, length, and volume can be introduced when cutting a sandwich, pouring a cup of juice, holding a paper plate, or merely counting the children at the table.

In this video, you’ll see educators take advantage of multiple opportunities to teach and use math words and concepts 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 do the educators “flood the environment” with math talk?
  • How is math talk integrated into daily routines and activities?


Why is it important to “flood the environment” with math language?

  • Math language gives children a way to express their growing understanding of math concepts.
  • Children need multiple opportunities to use mathematical language in a variety of activities.

How can you use math talk throughout the day?

  • Use daily calendar routines to engage children in patterning, number recognition, and counting to 10.
  • Take attendance by counting the number of children present and graphing the results. (How many are boys? How many are girls? Do we have more boys? Fewer boys?)
  • Use Snack Time to count, sort, and classify. For example, count the crackers on the plate, determine equal shares, find the longest pretzel, or talk about the shape of a sandwich or plate.
  • Use concrete objects to model real world addition or subtraction. (How many crackers do we have now? What will happen if we take one away?)
  • Use lining up to ask children to identify relative positions of objects in space. (Who is first in line? Who is next? Who is last in line?)
  • Use the clock and a thermometer to teach mathematical vocabulary such as numbers, temperature, time, higher, lower, before, and after.
  • Utilize learning centers. At the Block Center, for example, have children explore shapes, lengths, weights, and volume using words such as longer, shorter, heavier, lighter, higher, lower, more, fewer, big, bigger, and biggest.
  • Use classroom chores to teach concepts such as same, different, high, low, inside, outside, on top of, and below. The task of sorting, for example, requires a basic understanding of classes or kinds of objects. (Put all the pencils in the case and all the crayons in the bucket.)
  • Use nonstandard measures such as lengths of yarn or Unifix cubes to determine distance, length, or height comparisons. (How many cubes tall is your tower? What about measuring your tower now with string?)


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

  • What ideas or strategies would you adopt to help children learn and use math language accurately and often? 
  • What did you learn that you might incorporate into your program?
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