Sunday, October 3, 2010

 I have earned myself four cookies!!

Entry 8: My reflection on the whole course

I think everyone has to agree with me that Dr Yeap has totally changed our perception towards Math. Never has learning Math been this interesting and fun before. I was full of apprehension at the beginning of the course on how I will ride through the whole six sessions; given my strong incompetence in this subject area. With the technique and skills taught in teaching Math, I marvelled at how learning Math can be translated into something more fun!

Within a short period of time, we were brought back into the journey of learning Math all over again except that now it was done in a very tasteful manner. So much has been taught and covered. The various games that we've had; the dice, the paper clips, the cards, the tangrams, the cubes, to name but a few. Never have I came across Math lessons with so much life, zest, and excitement in it.

I see the great importance of learning Math as it is not only an examinable subject per se, but more of its application in our daily lives in terms of problem-solving, analysing and being able to think out of the box and to come out with different possibilities and solutions. These have to be instilled and inculcated since young. It is all about how learning can be imparted to entice young children to get engage and enjoy learning Math so that they can develop a strong foundation in it, have a strong liking and to apply it in their daily lives. It is important for me as the educator to have the right mindset and to think creatively with the interest of the children in mind                                     .

Thank you Dr Yeap for your sharing of those great ideas! We really wish to have more fun learning with you! 

Entry 7: Geometric thinking

One of the easiest concepts to teach to preschoolers are learning about shapes. This is one which children can connect very well as shapes are just about anywhere and everywhere! By providing the children with creative activities on shapes and getting them immersed in the activities, they will develop into observant individuals who will make intelligent observations to whatever that they can see in the environment. They will notice the circle on the lid of the dustbin, the rectangles on the false ceilings, the hexagons on the bee hives and so on.

I was challenged during the last lesson by counting the angles of the polygons. I could not even remember when was the last time I attempted to do so! It was rather enlightening to see how we strive to produce the correct answer helped by some smart alecks who have provided us with tips on solving the problems. Well, even though I did not derive with the correct answer for some of them, most importantly, I thought I have tried hard enough to come quite close to it.

I particularly enjoyed the actiivity where we had to come up with different designs on the dotted paper to form the four-sided shapes given the particular square area. That was really interesting and fun! I gained the most cookies based on what I have collected so far during the last lesson for participating actively. That was indeed a very good  closure towards a six sessions of fun and interactive learning on Math!

Entry 6: Whole Numbers and Common Practices.

Often times I heard parents sharing and comparing among themselves how much their child knows about numbers. Some even went to the extend of telling the other, "Oh, I am so amazed! My child already knows how to count up to 100! And he is only 3!" This will create unnecessary stress to the other parents whose child is only able to count up to 10. But how much does the former child know about numbers? By being able to count up to 100, does that make a child understands the underlying concepts of numbers up to 100?

What happened above is that some parents are unaware of the underlying and important concepts which come along with the numbers 1-10. That is the basic foundation before a child can even progress to bigger numbers. Of course, there is no harm if the child is able to rote-count of up to 100, but strictly speaking, there is nothing to be proud of. The child who is able to count up to 100 is basically practising his rote- counting skills; probably given the frequent exposure that he or she has received from adults in the environment. More importantly is how to equip the child with the knowledge of associating his or her rote-counting skills to serial counting and later to make relationship to its representation of symbols. 

On top of these, besides teaching concept of ordinal numbers, others include numbers which come before, after and in between, odd and even numbers and numbers more or less; all within 10. Once a child can master these concepts, then it is considered that he or she has a stable foundation for early Math.

From here, then the child is able to move on to place value, grouping of base ten and so on.

These are the common practices that has been implemented in my centre:-

Numbers up to 10: To associate symbols and their quantities.

Number concepts of 1-10: More /less, Numbers which comes before/after/between, odd/even numbers, and ordinal numbers.

Numbers up to 100: Grouping of base 10, associating symbols to quantities, place value

Concepts of money, length, time and mass.

Concepts of addition and subtraction

Story sums.

The non-common practices are:

Concepts of multiplication and division.


Saturday, October 2, 2010

Entry 5: Reflection on using Technology in Math.

Coming from an era where I was introduced to technology at a much later age, at a much slower pace and people were not highly-strung with technology, that has resulted in a 'not IT-savvy me.' It is rather heartening as well as disheartening to see how the younger generations are so well-versed in it. Just pick any gaming activity using one of the hand-held machines and they will be well on their way to a world of fun and  excitement. Unlike me, I will still grapple with the functions of the keys and to apply them all the same.

How time has changed. The use of calculators in school gets more pronounced and children are getting exposed to its usage even as early as at primary level. As convenient as it may seems as compared to my time where I was expected to do my calculations manually, the standard of education now has definitely increased by leaps and bounds, that time spent for manual calculation is immaterial albeit they are allowed to use it for certain sections only. Rather, they are expected to spent more of their time solving complex problem-sums that the calculator has been used to aid them in speeding up their time in providing the solutions.

There are also many mathematical software applications that can be bought off the shelves which contribute to children being exposed to computers at a tender young age. This will definitely serve as a challenge especially for educators like me to equip myself with the necessary knowledge so as to keep up with the changes and challenges around me. I stand firmly on the ultimate importance of preschoolers being immersed with concrete experiences in learning Math. I must say that involving technology in Math is more applicable and approriate to the older children, probably a basic introduction at the beginning of K2 level before they progress to their primary schooling years.   

Entry 4: Place values

Being trained in Montessori Method of teaching and having taught in a Montessori setting for a good 7 years, I realised the importance of relaying the right concept of place values in preschoolers as early as at Nursery level. This foundation is critical as they will be able to see the relationship between numbers in relation to their place values.

We all know that very young children need to be exposed to concrete materials in order to make sense of what they are doing and learning. They need to experience the process of working through the specific tasks before they could acquire the concept. As with a Montessori setting, the children are taught this concept using the 'Golden Beads' using sets of units, tens, hundreds and thousands. However, in a different setting, this can always be substituted with other manipulative and the closest to it will be the unifix cubes.

Once the child is able to quantify the sequence of numbers 1-10 correctly, he or she can then be taught to do grouping of sets of 10. As in the case of the place value of 34, children will be given the understanding that '4' stands for ones or units,  and the '3' refers to the tens. Therefore, 34 is the same as 3 tens and 4 ones or units. And when it comes to writing it in symbols, they will be able to see that the number on the right represents the smallest set of values up to 9. If one more is added to it, it will become 10 which requires a different placeing. The same goes for hundreds and thousands (for example having sets of 9 tens and if 1 ten being added to the set, a 100 will be formed and so on)

This concept proved very essential and helpful in preparing children for futher mathematical functions in their later years. It really makes a difference whether a child is equipped or not equipped with this concept for their understanding number concepts and values to be challenged further.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Entry 3. Problem solving in relation to environment-based task.

Our group has chosen the topic on 'Money' for the environment-based task. We have chosen that topic as it is something which is very practical in our daily lives especially when the target group are the K2s. They need to be equipped with the concept and skills of handling money before they progress further to Primary 1.

We have understood the requirements of the task but thought that it would be more appropriate for such lessons to be translated and conducted in a classroom setting. At first, we decided to have Coffee Bean as our main setting, then MacDonald's, but in the end, we settled for the Marketplace at Raffles Shopping Centre.  We wanted to adopt the concept and have planned for a supermarket corner to be set up for the children where they will do pretend shopping of buying and selling of items using real money. Besides providing them with the right kind of language to use, it will definitely be a fun learning experience for them being given the liberty to consider and decide on what to buy for themselves given the limited amount of money that they have.

The extension for the planned activity would be to get the children to create a pictograph on the items purchased and to make their own comparisons. Besides, they can also create their own addition and substraction story sums given the prior knowledge of those concepts that they have earlier on. This is in line with what has been shared by Dr Yeap, that we should provide children with concrete experiences before moving on to pictographs and later on, the abstracts.