This week's content is provided by Malke Rosenfeld, the author of Math on the Move. If you have not yet checked out her book, do it now! From Malke:
When my daughter was six she was prone to spontaneous bursts of body-based mathematical exploration. That summer we had two flower plants in our garden that she had nurtured from seed. By mid-August they had refused to blossom but were still gaining height and had become a daily source of measurement. She’d compare the plant to her own height, "The cosmo is taller than me!” As we turned toward autumn she was ecstatic to pronounce, “It's up to Papa's chin now!"
Perhaps you’ve also noticed your children using their bodies to measure, make size comparisons with other objects, or track growth. Or maybe you’ve noticed them:
walking a pathway along the painted lines on a basketball court
crossing a tiled floor on the diagonal by stepping on all the corners, or
stepping deliberately over every other floor tile in the grocery store
What can we make of this kind of activity?
Children naturally use their bodies as “thinking tools” to explore and make sense of the world. This is spatial thinking, a non-verbal, body-based mode of knowing and reasoning. Studies have emphasized the importance of self-produced movement in the development spatial reasoning which is strongly linked to robust mathematical thinking and problem solving.
You can support the development of sturdy spatial and math skills in your children in three easy and enjoyable ways:
Have conversations. Use spatial and relational words in the context of talking about everyday activities: over, under, around, through, around, above, below, etc.
Pay attention to how children are using their bodies to interact with the environment, especially in new spaces. The more you notice the more you’ll see (and enjoy) your children’s body-based thinking!
Play around! During a visit from a VERY tall Uncle Arlen my six-year-old noticed that he was exactly the same length as the couch! They ended up measuring the sunroom in a hilarious series of units called “Arlens.” The room was almost exactly four Arlens long. They also noticed that one “Arlen” was equivalent to two “Isobel’s” and five lengths of our unamused cat Lucy!
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us on Twitter (@TableTalkMath) or drop a comment below. Maybe you can create some of your own. If so, toss them my way and share!
Thank you for taking the time to improve math fluency for children, one table talk conversation at a time.
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John Stevens is working to give parents ideas on how to have mathematics-based discussion at home.