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/ Home / Library / Articles on Education / Science & Mathematics / Making Mathematical Connections in the Early Grades
Making Mathematical Connections in the Early Grades
Author: Michelle K. Reed
Date: April 1995
Of all of the reform recommendations being made by the National Council
of Teachers of Mathematics, making mathematical connections is among the
more difficult to achieve, yet is so helpful in motivating students in the
early grades. Mathematical connections can relate mathematical topics to
students' daily lives and to other mathematical topics but are probably
most important in relating mathematics to other curriculum areas. These
connections help students understand mathematics better and see it as a
useful and interesting subject to study. This digest gives samples of activities
appropriate for use in the early grades to connect mathematics to other
subjects. Resources are listed by subject area and are drawn from a longer
annotated bibliography of mathematical connections available from ERIC/CSMEE
(see end note).
A + B = 1, 2, 3 (Language Arts/Mathematics Connection) is a collection
of teaching materials to connect language arts and mathematics. Materials
in the collection include: (1) a statement of fundamental assumptions about
language, literacy, and learning; (2) objectives for mathematics as communication;
(3) discussion of a new approach to teaching mathematics that draws on the
best features of language teaching; and (4) numerous class activities such
as giving and following directions, techniques of shared reading, a place
value mat, a description of learning logs, making a math story, collecting
and organizing data, and examples of how poems can be part of a mathematics
lesson. A 220-item bibliography is included.
Lim, J. A., & Abell-Victory, J. (1991, May). A + B = 1, 2, 3 (Language
arts/mathematics connection). Workshop presented at the Annual Meeting
of the International Reading Association, Las Vegas, NV. (ED 335 637) "Links
to Literature: The Most Important Thing Is..." describes the use
of Margaret Wise Brown's The Important Book to involve students in
writing about defining qualities and attributes of geometric shapes.
Bertheau, M., & Thiessen, D. (1994, October). Links to literature: The most
important thing isä. Teaching Children Mathematics, 1(2), 112-115.
"Thinking About Fractions (Writing in Mathematics Class)"
describes two activities in a second-grade class that use drawing and writing
to explore fractions.
Burns, M. (1992, November-December). Thinking about fractions (Writing in
mathematics class). Writing Notebook: Visions for Learning, 10(2),
"Using Language Arts to Promote Mathematics Learning"
considers four language arts-speaking, listening, reading, and writing-as
activities that enhance the development of mathematical concepts. Suggests
ways language arts can be used in learning difficult concepts such as missing
addends, algorithms, number facts, and problem solving. Lists 39 references.
Burton, G. M. (1992, Summer). Using language arts to promote mathematics
learning. Mathematics Educator, 3(2), 26-31.
Literature that explores mathematical concepts is a natural tool for
attaining the goals of the NCTM Standards. The Wonderful World
of Mathematics: A Critically Annotated List of Children's Books in Mathematics
provides reviews of approximately 500 books in mathematics for preschool
through grade 6. Each review describes the content of the book and rates
its usefulness in teaching mathematical concepts. The books are classified
into four main categories: (1) early number concepts, (2) number extensions
and connections, (3) measurement, and (4) geometry and spatial sense. Two
indexes list the books by author and by title.
Thiessen, D., & Matthias, M. (Eds.). (1992). The wonderful world of mathematics:
A critically annotated list of children's books in mathematics. Reston,
VA: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. (ED 355 124)
Activities for Teaching K-6 Math/Science Concepts is a revised
edition of one of the products of a project, "Teaching Mathematics
and Science Concepts, K-6," funded by the New York State Department
of Education. This book contains lesson ideas that reflect the belief that
science and mathematics are opposite sides of the same coin. Activities
in this booklet (1) combine important mathematics and science in a single
lesson; (2) have been tried out by classroom teachers and elementary school
children; (3) involve "hands-on" activities; (4) use readily available,
everyday materials; and (5) can be used as the basis for further activities.
Included is a list of free and inexpensive materials that are useful in
teaching science and mathematics and which include everything needed for
the activities in this booklet. The topics of geometry, shapes, the earth,
measuring, counting, inclined planes, work, gravity, friction, observing,
classifying, angles, dew point, probability, symmetry, variation in nature,
metric system, data collecting, estimation, ratios, proportion, melting,
freezing, graphs, inferring, patterns, feeding and locomotion of animals,
adaptations in animals, volume, ground water, and water supply are presented.
A section "Sources of Further Ideas" contains a brief list of
professional journals, teacher idea/reference books, and curriculum projects,
along with a list of useable junk.
Farmer, W. A., & Farrell, M. A. (1989). Activities for teaching K-6
math/science concepts. Bowling Green, OH: School Science and Mathematics
Association (126 Life Sciences Building, Bowling Green State University,
Bowling Green, OH 43403-0256). (ED 347 051)
"IDEAS" connects science and mathematics in a series of
activities related to the heart. Worksheets designed for multiple grade
levels investigate (1) How Big Is Your Heart? (levels K-2); (2) Every Beat
of Your Heart (levels 3-4); (3) What's the Beat? (levels 5-6), and (4) Heartifacts
(levels 7-8). Extensions of the activities are discussed. Passarello, L.
M., & Fennell, F. (1992, February). IDEAS. Arithmetic Teacher, 39(6), 32-39.
"SSMiles" presents five integrated mathematics and science
lessons in which students investigate the characteristics, behavior, lifecycles,
and motion of mealworms and the feasibility of raising mealworms for profit.
Purpose, time, materials needed, procedures, and extensions for each activity
Tracy, D. M. (Ed.). (1993, October). SSMiles. School Science and Mathematics,
"Data Buddies: Primary-Grade Mathematicians Explore Data" describes
a project for first- and second-graders involving gathering and interpreting
survey data from a student they have never met in order to identify the
student at the end of the project. Includes sample curricular goals and
instructional strategies. Bloom, S. J. (1994, October). Data buddies: Primary-grade
mathematicians explore data. Teaching Children Mathematics, 1(2),
"Early Childhood Corner: Calendar Reading: A Tradition That Begs
Remodeling" describes the construction of a children's calendar
for use in school, including development of time concepts, developing event
recording systems, daily and weekly schedules of events, multiple-week schedules
of events, and a day-date calendar. Schwartz, S. L. (1994, October). Early
childhood corner: Calendar reading: A tradition that begs remodeling. Teaching
Children Mathematics, 1(2), 104-109.
"Social Math: Teacher's Resources" presents recommended
resources for implementing activities in social mathematics, an instructional
approach created by combining numerical information with social studies
concepts. Describes ways to generate historical timelines, create family
histories, and collect and interpret numerical data. Porter, P. (Ed.). (1993,
September-October). Social math: Teacher's resources. Social Studies
and the Young Learner, 6(1), 25-27.
"World Cultures in the Mathematics Class" introduces
a cultural perspective into the teaching of mathematics. Describes the mathematical
practices of African peoples and of the indigenous peoples of the Americas
in relationship to numbers and numeration, design and pattern, architecture,
and games of chance and skill. Zaslavsky, C. (1991, June). World cultures
in the mathematics class. For the Learning of Mathematics, 11(2),
"IDEAS" presents a thematic approach to curriculum that enables
students to connect topics and supports meaningful inquiry. Presents four
activities for levels K-2, 3-4, 5-6, and 7-8 in which students explore problems
of interest involving the theme of construction and architecture. Includes
Brahier, D. (Ed.). (1993, February). IDEAS. Arithmetic Teacher, 40(6),
Math in Motion: Origami in the Classroom presents techniques and
activities to teach mathematics using origami paper folding. Part 1 includes
a history of origami, mathematics and origami, and careers using mathematics.
Parts 2 and 3 introduce paper folding concepts and teaching techniques,
including low-budget paper resources. Part 4 includes a lesson plan guide
and interdisciplinary cross-reference chart. Part 5 includes paper-folding
projects and activities using the square, rectangle, and triangle. Part
6 offers cultural and educational enrichment activities, including math
journals, thought-of-the-week quotations, Japanese fan, haiku, fortune cookie
recipe, Japanese vocabulary of numbers and common words, tangram puzzles,
origami mobile, the thousand cranes story, and a cooperative learning activity
about diagramming. Teacher scripts are included with some lessons. Staff
development, family, and student workshops are also available.
Pearl, B. (1994). Math in motion: Hands-on math: Origami in the classroom.
Newport Beach, CA: Author (2417 Vista Hogar, Newport Beach, CA 97660). (714)
721-0633. (SE 054 376)
"Word Problems and the Language Connection" presents
the method of employing student-written playlets and a technique called
"stage freeze" to help students identify appropriate operations
during problem solving. Provides five sample playlets, a description of
the method, and several benefits from using the method.
Matz, K. A., & Leier, C. (1992, April). Word problems and the language connection.
Arithmetic Teacher, 39(8), 14-17.
"Empowering Students With 'The Math Connection'" discusses
a children's television show, The Math Connection, which shows connections
between mathematics and daily pursuits of local workers and tries to improve
attitudes of students and teachers towards mathematics. Describes the content
and structure and the open-ended problems on which students work to prepare
for the show.
Rosnick, P. (1994, May). Empowering students with "The Math Connection."
Arithmetic Teacher, 41(9), 513-517.
"Math Safari" describes a mathematical, scientific,
geographic, informational adventure for fourth-grade students. It integrates
all curriculum areas and other skills by using information children must
find in books to pose math problems about animals. It encourages cooperative
learning, critical reading, analysis, and use of research skills.
Nelson, V., & Stanko, A. (1992, August). Math safari. Learning, 21(1),
Wet and Wild Water uses a thematic approach to show the integration
of subjects (reading, mathematics, language arts, science/fine arts) and
skills to create a context for learning. There are six major topics in the
guide, each with subtopics: (1) Getting Your Feet Wet-An Introduction to
Water; (2) Fishy Business-Applying Economics; (3) The Big Splash-Water Sports,
Athletes, and Water Animals; (4) Where in the World-Famous Explorers of
the Past; (5) Water Mysteries-Myths, Legends, and Strange Occurrences (Loch
Ness Monster and Atlantis); and (6) Join Hands for Tomorrow's Water-Global
Responsibility. Under each topic is an indication of the core knowledge
required, a description of the activity, directions for a water experiment,
and a list of books and resources for the teacher.
Indiana State Department of Education. (1990). Wet and wild water.
Indianapolis: Center for School Improvement and Performance. (ED 338 478)
The items listed above are drawn from a longer annotated bibliography of
mathematical connections available for $1.95 from ERIC/CSMEE, 1929 Kenny
Road, Columbus, OH 43210-1080. For a complete list of publications in mathematics,
science, and environmental education available from ERIC/CSMEE, call 1-800-276-0462.
FINDING ERIC DOCUMENTS
ERIC documents (those having ED or SE numbers) can be read at any library
holding an ERIC microfiche collection. Copies can be purchased from the
ERIC Document Reproduction Service (EDRS): 1-800-443-ERIC. For general questions
about ERIC, the site of the nearest ERIC collection, or a list of current
free and low-cost publications, contact ACCESS ERIC: 1-800-LET-ERIC.
About the Author
Michelle Reed is a doctoral student in mathematics education at the Ohio
State University and is the mathematics education analyst for ERIC/CSMEE.
Her interests include the Montessori method and teacher education.