Communicating with Young Children in Mathematics: A Unique Challenge
Schwartz, Sydney L., Brown, Anna Beth, Teaching Children Mathematics
For prekindergarten and kindergarten children, whose communication skills fall far behind their mathematical understandings, meeting the NCTM's Standard 2: Mathematics as Communication poses unique challenges (NCTM 1989, 26-28). Young children's meanings and understandings of mathematical ideas take place in an action-based learning environment as they use concrete materials as tools with which to think and talk. They construct these mathematical understandings as they manipulate the objects; they test their mathematical understandings through what adults view as endless repetition; they use their understandings of mathematical relationships to build models of their ideas; and they use mathematical skills and understandings to solve problems in all aspects of their lives. They construct their understanding and build power in using the skills, both in school and out of school, with others and alone. Finally, through communication, their mathematical ideas and understandings resolutely move from the intuitive to the conscious level and increasingly become organized for retrieval, use, and development (Kamii 1982; Katz and Chard 1989).
Whereas the core of their mathematical learning revolves around using physical materials and observing events, prekindergarten and kindergarten children are at that stage of language development in which their thinking far outpaces their ability to verbalize. Attempts to elicit explanations about their mathematical thinking often meet with simplistic statements that grossly understate the complexity of the ideas involved. Even less revealing are the shrugs that mean "I don't know" or "I just knew."
The essential ingredients, then, for enhancing children's mathematical thinking are (1) presentation of a large selection of classroom materials to use in making sense of their experiences and refining their mathematical understandings, (2) allocation of blocks of time for children to interact with their peers and adults as they use the materials, and (3) participation in stimulating curriculum experiences to feed the …
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Publication information: Article title: Communicating with Young Children in Mathematics: A Unique Challenge. Contributors: Schwartz, Sydney L. - Author, Brown, Anna Beth - Author. Magazine title: Teaching Children Mathematics. Volume: 1. Issue: 6 Publication date: February 1995. Page number: 350+. © 1999 National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, Inc. COPYRIGHT 1995 Gale Group.
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