These days, you will often hear the acronym STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) as a “go to” phrase in curriculum. This is because of the natural overlap between these domains. When children engage in science experiences, they are motivated to apply math to help them answer their questions. For example, as children investigate the effect that water has on the growth of a plant, children might need to quantify the amount of water they are giving a plant, measure its growth or even count the number of days it has been since a plant was last watered. Without math, their understanding of this relationship between water and plants will lack depth.
As educators, we facilitate the various ways that math will support science learning. During science experiences, we help children identify and create patterns, measure a variety of attributes (e.g., weight, temperature, length, volume), sort and organize, quantify and compare, all of which are critical skills in early childhood mathematics (Clements & Sarama, 2004). Keep in mind, for younger children the ways in which they measure and quantify will need to be simplified to meet their current level of understanding. This might take the form of measuring using unit blocks rather than a ruler, sorting by just 1 attribute or emphasizing “more” or “less” while comparing materials in the same type of containers.
Let’s see some examples of how this may LOOK in the classroom:
As toddlers learn about life science and animals, they use models of animals and sort them by “small” and “big” to gain a better understanding around the sizes of animals compared to one another.
While investigating sound, the concept of patterns is used as children use rhythm sticks and learn about loud – soft and fast – slow sounds.
During an activity of making gak, children are exploring the concept of cause and effect. Through the understanding of more and less, children can see the effect adding more water has on their mixture.
Children use blocks as a means to measure and compare the height of each other.
As you are planning for your classroom, be intentional about how you will incorporate math into science experiences. Providing children opportunities to learn across domains leads to greater depth in learning in more meaningful ways.
Clements, D. H., & Sarama, J. (2004). Learning trajectories in mathematics education. Mathematical thinking and learning, 6(2), 81-89.
Photos courtesy of NCQTL