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Developmentally Appropriate Math Instruction

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  • 0:04 What is Development?
  • 1:43 Math and Development
  • 3:02 Testing Knowledge
  • 3:49 Scaffolding & Formal…
  • 5:11 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Lynne Hampson

Lynne Hampson has a Masters in Instr. Design & Bach. in Elem./Spec. Educ. She taught 8 years in Elem. Core, Science, Coding, Microsoft, Internet Safety, and Life Skills.

In this lesson, we will learn developmentally appropriate ways to incorporate math instruction into your classroom. We will learn what it means to be developmentally appropriate, and then provide some effective learning strategies to make this possible in early childhood learning.

What Is Development?

Let's say your brother was once talking to his daughter's teacher about the silly things kids do in her pre-kindergarten class. Let's also say that his daughter had said something true to form that made the teacher laugh. In response she said, 'ages and stages.' Your brother got a chuckle out of what she said and wondered what she meant. Well, after teaching multiple ages of students for several years, and learning about how a child's mind develops in several educational psychology classes, his daughter's teacher was probably eager to enlighten him.

While most everything that goes on in early childhood may look goofy, and give us all a chuckle, there is actually a lot going on in those little minds. Did you know the brain takes years and years to develop and continues to grow even into a child's teenage years? Some grow faster, some grow a little slower, and sadly, some development is halted because of a traumatic brain injury, disability, or disease.

You can see how this can be hard for a teacher with several kids in their class. Even though they may be about the same age, development comes at different times for each child. This is not just for education, but also, for maturity and the ability to handle social situations.

In the earliest of years, children learn through imitation. From infancy, they unknowingly are repeating our moves and motions. They learn through our actions and try to repeat them. They also learn from our social behavior, peer behaviors, and the environmental stimuli around them.

Developmental growth is an ongoing compilation of information being stored in the brain. As the information grows, the mind continues connecting it to the information it already had stored from previous interactions.

Math and Development

Knowing what we know about the development of the brain, how do we transfer that information over to pedagogy (how to teach) of early childhood math?

As stated above, students will come into education at various levels of development and skill. Education departments actually consider what a student's average level of development should be by a certain age, and they create standards based upon that level or skill. This is not to say all kids will be ready to master that skill, or it is possible the skill has already been mastered.

Examples of Developmental Growth in Math

Some of the many examples of mathematical development in regards to standards for learning are listed below. Students are expected to start with the basics of math and work off of what they have learned and apply it to new information:

  • Pre Kindergarten-first grade level students should be able to count up to around 100. You may find some kids counting into the thousands. That is great. You may find some who don't know what a number is. They are also learning fine motor skills of writing numbers and understanding that the number 5 represents five objects. At this age, they even start with basic addition and subtraction skills using modeling or storytelling.
  • Second-third grade students will begin to understand how to name and count money. They may even be adding decimals by the end of the year. Telling time and word problems begin to enter into the equation.

Testing Knowledge

The scary thing about a classroom full of children working at many different levels of development is wondering where to start. The first step with a new group of kids is finding out just what they know, what type of learner they are, and how developed their social and emotional skills may be.

There is actually a lot of help out there for figuring out how a student learns and what they know. Many schools pay a lot of money for programs to find this out. There are also programs online that are free. Some are called placement tests, while others are called readiness tests. They also have social tests, emotional tests, and tests that tell you how students learn best. There are many names and types of these tests. The choice may be hard in finding the best assessment; it is really important to start with some type of pre-assessment to demonstrate what they know.

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