When a researcher sets out to understand how children learn, or better yet, don’t learn math, some interesting information comes to light, especially when the research focuses in on the early years when preschoolers are just beginning to be introduced to fundamental mathematical concepts. Such was the case in a recent study conducted by Dr. Nicole McNeil and her team at the University of Notre Dame.
What the researchers found was interesting. How the concepts were presented and labeled had a significant impact on how well the children understood and applied the concepts.
Something minor, which in this study was giving the mathematical patterns an abstract label (i.e., A, B, A, B) instead of a concrete label (i.e., naming the colors in the pattern), was actually very major. The children in the study who worked with the abstract levels solved more problems correctly than the children who worked with the concrete labels.
More than abstract or concrete labeling, the key finding in this study was this:
…[E]ven differences in relatively specific, microlevel factors can affect how children understand certain concepts. I think this means that we need to be very purposeful about structuring lessons and our instructional input to ensure that we are setting children up to construct an understanding of the most important concepts.
A small change in planning and presentation, but a giant leap indeed for children’s understanding and success in learning.
Want to learn more about learning and teaching math through music? Take a look at our free e-books.
Researchers, scientists, and teachers have long recognized the link between music and math, but the benefits seemed to be long-term – later when children were learning math in school. The exciting reality is that even very young children are unknowingly learning math as they participate in early childhood music and movement classes.
#1 – Geometry
Children develop important foundations in geometry through circle dances, plays instruments, and moving body in different ways. Movement combined with words and labels like “in and out,” “up and down,” or “around and through” are helping build the spatial awareness and spatial-temporal reasoning skills that are fundamental to geometry, as well as a child’s future potential career as an engineer, a scientist, a math teacher, or even an athlete.
#2 – Patterns
Music and math are both full of patterns. Out of simple rhymes, chants, and games of pat-a-cake grows an ability to understand and manipulate patterns of big and small blocks. Moving in a different way for each section of music helps children begin to identify through movement the parts (or patterns) that make up the whole. Listening for and responding to short patterns in music also expands a child’s understanding of the patterns in math.
#3 – Numbers
Many children’s counting rhymes, singing songs, and enjoying fingerplays that are a part of an early childhood music curriculum like Kindermusik include numbers. Getting “two instruments” from the instrument basket or counting steps in a circle dance combine music and early math concepts. Through these activities, children gain valuable early exposure to basic math skills like counting, sequencing, and one-to-one correspondence.
The science and research backs it up. Children will be stronger mathematicians if they are engaged in music making at a young age. Music and movement classes are great preparation for success in math – not just listening to music but actually playing and making music!
Find out how Kindermusik classes can give your child experiences rich with mathematics-learning opportunities at www.Kindermusik.com.