Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The secret to math education in preschool

Here's an interesting article about math in preschool, Why Math Might be the Secret to School Success.  It refers to a recent study showing that math knowledge at the beginning of elementary school is the single most powerful predictor determining whether a student will graduate from high school and attend college.  That's a new one!  We usually hear about reading skills and the ability to delay gratification (The Marshmallow Test) as top indicators.

Perhaps it is actually a richness of experience while they are little that gives children an edge.  Math is an important component.  Math that is intentionally incorporated into activities like cooking, gathering, sorting, building and making patterns is crucial for developing brains as a base for deeper understanding.  You can read Pre K 3 teacher, JoAnn Bennett's blog  This Week! (scroll down to the Looking Deeper section) to learn about the math activities involved in block building, for example. 

Engaging, exciting and loud are the key elements with math for preschoolers.  “We want kids running around the classroom and bumping into mathematics at every turn.” says Doug Clements from U. Denver.  That sounds like fun!  And a lot like our Pre K 3's and 4's at Parker.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

It's all about the social stuff

I love this article about social learning by NPR's Anya Kamanetz, The Benefits of Teaching Lessons Learned in Preschool to Older Kids.  She reminds us that social learning is equal to academic learning in importance. 

In the public discourse, measuring students' success is all about testing for academic achievement.  Neuroscience research points to using additional measures, though.  The research shows that academic achievement holds little value without the social skills to communicate, self-regulate and empathize with others. "Kids who develop these skills early in life get better grades, are less susceptible to anxiety and depression and have healthier, more fulfilling relationships,” says Linda Lantieri, director of The Inner Resilience Program.

Emotional intelligence and respectful self-expression must be just as explicitly taught as problem-solving in math, or problem-finding in social studies.  As we seek academic challenges for students we can't neglect social challenges.

Programs we use at Parker like Responsive Classroom and mindfulness practices give us a common language and methods for helping children gain skills that are sometimes hard.  Second graders have an exquisite sense of fairness ("Sam budged in line - so I budged back") and sixth graders are finely attuned to social nuance ("My BFF doesn't agree with me on the project we're doing, so are we still friends?")  Helping students negotiate these choppy waters is not easy, and it takes a lot of time, but its essential.

In the block corner or at the robotics table, students need both intellectual and social skills to be successful.