In response to requests for ideas that supplement and enhance mathematical learning for young children, I am offering my first topic of sorting and classifying. To many, this may not appear to have much mathematical significance, but rest assured it does. It is important that children begin to think about how objects, people and places have attributes in common. An attribute is defined as a quality or characteristic belonging to a person or thing or a distinctive feature. Children can be given a collection of everyday objects and asking to sort them any way they want.
Examples of beginning rules for sorting are:
3.size-big small, thick, thin, long, short
4.appearance-shiny, dull, decorated, plain
5.material- wood, metal, plastic, glass
6.use-play, work, school
You can use objects in you home for this activity, such as laundry, food, toys, books, writing/drawing instruments, office supplies and many others.
Two easy activities to practice:
1. Point out the various places where sorting is very apparent, such as supermarkets, where similar foods are grouped. See if you child can name the rule for sorting in each aisle, for example, produce, dairy, candy, meat, soda. Other good places to use this activity is department and hardware stores, pharmacies, and libraries. Discuss with your child how your shopping would change if items were not sorted. Additionally, menus are another easy way to show how sorting is used everyday. Children can use circulars to cut out pictures and glue them into sorted groups. Help your child label each list or group correctly. Point out how items are arrranged in their closet and dresser, in your pantry or kitchen.
Extensions: a.You name several items, see if your child can label your group of
b.Name several items that belong to a group and one that doesn't.
See if you child can pick out the one that doesn't belong.
2. For older children, the Venn diagram can be used. This diagram using overlapping circles, shows how items are related. In the example below, I have chosen to use items in a child's room. I have two groups, "items in my room", and "items that are blue" as my labels. There are items listed inside each circle. The higher level thinking skills come from deciding which items belong where two circle overlap. These items must fit both rules. Your older child can draw these circles or you can use yarn or string to make them so they can be reused each time. At first, you can give the ideas to your child and let them create the diagram. Later on they will be able to do it using their own rules and items.
Extensions: a. Items can become more similar so that careful thought must be used.
Jar lids, stamps, and buttons would be a great example.
b. A third circle might be added so that three attributes must be
Hope you enjoy using these ideas with your children and find ways to extend and expand them. Remember to teach math everyday.