Investigation & Discovery (3 - 5 yrs.)
Children are natural explorers, ready to touch, taste, smell, look at, and listen to all the things around them. Everywhere that children go, they are curious about what they see and do. This curiosity leads to questions that can spark important exploration and learning, especially in math and science.
Science is the study of the natural world and the process of finding out about the world and how everything in it works. Math includes exploring numbers, quantity, space, patterns, and relationships. Math is a problem-solving process.
Opportunities for science and math learning are all around us; for example, when a child wants to investigate the water coming out of the faucet, the snow tracked in on her winter boots, or the cereal floating in her bowl. Routine occurrences like these are natural opportunities for parents and caregivers to help their children to discover and explore with all of their senses.
By showing your child how math and science are part of everyday experiences, you convey that math and science are important and exciting. By supporting your child’s curiosity and helping her to ask questions, look for answers, make observations, and explore with all her senses, you show your child that that she can think like a mathematician and scientist. You also help her to develop important skills for future learning. Children who are confident questioners, explorers, and problem-solvers will arrive at school with many of the tools necessary to thrive.
In this video you’ll meet children from four families:
- Kendra (age 3) as she takes a walk with her family.
- Cora (age 4) and her sister Pepper (age 2) as they explore ramps.
- Joaquin (age 4) and his older brother Tariq (age 12) as they build block structures.
- Marli (age 3) as she cooks with her mom.
Watch as these children explore math and science at home and on-the-go.
A World of Science and Math. In the video, you saw children building math and science skills through hands-on experiences. Kendra explored leaves during a walk outside, Tariq and Joaquin investigated balance as they built with blocks, and Marli and her mother made math a part of their meal preparation.
You also saw Cora and Pepper’s mother further engage them in their ramp explorations by asking questions such as “What do you think will happen when we roll this ball down the ramp?”
- Where else in the video did the parents use questions to help spark investigation?
- What are some questions that have encouraged your child to investigate?
Try This. Pose a daily math or science question that you and your child can investigate as you are out and about. You might ask, “What do you think would happen to our shadows if we stand under that tree?” Or, “Which object do you think will roll fastest down this slide? Why do you think that? Let’s find out!”
Sparking Science. In the video, parents used their children’s interests to spark science investigation. Kendra’s parents know she loves being outside, so they went on a walk to explore leaves. Your child will be most excited to explore what she is interested in. By building science investigations out of her interests you encourage deep and lasting learning.
Try This. Give your child an investigation kit. In a box or bag put string, a plastic bag, a magnifying glass, paper, a ruler, and crayons. Demonstrate how to use any tools that your child is unfamiliar with. Encourage your child to use these tools to investigate something that interests her indoors or outdoors. She might measure the trunk of a tree with the string, dig in the dirt, use the magnifying glass to inspect a leaf, and then draw pictures that illustrate her investigations.
Making Math Meaningful. In the video, Marli explores numbers, shapes, and measurement as she makes a pizza with her mom. Through this experience she learns that math is a part of mealtime. When math is connected to children’s real world experiences, it takes on far more meaning to them. Children are eager to learn more about math when they see just how important it is.
Try This. Use math words or “math talk” as you are out and about with your child. Math talk includes words that describe size and weight, words that describe shape, and words that describe how many or how much. At the post office you might discuss the size and shape of a stamp, on a walk you might count your steps or discuss which building is the tallest. At home you might ask your child to tell you how many crackers are on his plate. Hearing and using math words will help your child understand the math that happens in school and in real life.