Math is more than just grasping a sense of numbers – it promotes hands-on learning, critical thinking, problem solving, and opens up a different way of looking at the world around us. So, how do you bring STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) to life in and out of the classroom and engage your preschoolers in such an important concept? Well, you capture the child’s natural curiosity and build STEM skills through play and exploration!
Here are a handful of approaches to fuel your preschoolers interest in STEM learning:
Highlight STEM in Play Activities
Children look at the world with wonder and amazement, which makes it easy to direct that awe and fold in math concepts. For example, if a child is playing with a train set – you could point out the rectangular shape, or the circular wheels. Then, ask the child a question such as, “How does this train move down the tracks?” Engage in a conversation about how everything works together and spark their learning and encourage questions and discovery.
Observation plays a key role in STEM and there’s no better way to develop math concepts than to discuss their view of the world. If it happens to be raining outside, bring to their attention why they would use an umbrella or wear a raincoat. Ask, “How does the umbrella protect you from getting wet in the rain?” Provoke their excitement about weather and engage even further with stressing why they dress warmer in the cooler months, or why they wear shorts and tee shirts in the warmer months.
Develop Measurement Skills
When it comes to measurement – preschoolers may use general descriptions such as little, big, longer or shorter. Capture this view by bringing out different sized objects or blocks and ask the children to put them in order of smallest to biggest. Or, compare the length of objects by placing a paperclip next to a crayon and ask, “Is the paperclip longer or shorter than the crayon?” You could also have two children who are different in height stand back-to-back and say, “Who is taller?” In both instances, feel free to use a ruler or measuring tape and begin to build those concepts about measurement by applying the tools needed.
Investigate and Explore Nature
Taking the children outside to explore nature is a perfect opportunity to engage hands-on learning, which is a fundamental concept to STEM. Encourage your class to become researchers, tap into their natural inquisitiveness and support their observation of the outside elements. Talk shapes! “Look at this rock – what shape is this?” Stimulate their senses! “What sounds do you hear?” Count! Pick up rocks, place them in a pile and have the children count aloud. Then, take that a step further have them put rocks in order of smallest to biggest or even discuss their weight – “What rock is the heaviest?” These types of activities will awaken more observation and curiosity.
There are many ways to spur your preschoolers interest in STEM by engaging in different exploration activities – these first steps will be key in the child’s achievements in math. So, go and EXPLORE!