Rhombus? Vertices? Subitizing? These high-level mathematical terms are not typically associated with an early childhood math program. However, studies show that a child’s math skills at kindergarten entry are a better predictor of future academic success than reading skills, social skills or the ability to focus.
Building Blocks is the math curriculum used in the McCaffrey Early Childhood Learning Center (ECLC). It was developed by learning experts Douglas Clements and Julie Sarama, along with their colleagues, at the Marsico Institute for Early Learning, which is part of the Morgridge College of Education at the University of Denver.
“Building Blocks is designed to enable all young children to build solid content knowledge and develop higher-order thinking,” say the authors. “Based on theory and research on early childhood learning and teaching, Building Blocks’ basic approach is finding the mathematics in, and developing mathematics from, children’s activity. The materials are designed to help children extend and mathematize their everyday activities, from building blocks to art to songs and stories.”
We began using the Building Blocks curriculum in the ECLC during the 2017-18 school year. What I appreciate most about this program is that it acknowledges the importance of math in the early years and allows students to feel empowered in their understanding of math. This is why we use accurate mathematical terms such as rhombus, a shape commonly referred to as a diamond; vertices, the angles in a given shape; or subitizing, the ability to automatically recognize a small quantity without having to count. In my time using this program, I have seen a huge jump in my students’ mathematical abilities, enjoyment and interest.
But does this love of math continue on into kindergarten? Our kindergarten teachers say that students who experienced this program in Pre-K last year can articulate their math thinking earlier in the year, they are able to utilize more effective strategies, there is improvement in their flexibility and an overall increase in their enjoyment of math.
It is essential that math is embedded into the everyday lives of young children. Just as we are told about the importance of reading to young children every day, we should also expose them to mathematical concepts every day. It has been incredibly rewarding for me to use the Building Blocks math curriculum in my classroom and see both a love of math and a truly strong mathematical foundation blossom in my young students.
Lead preschool teacher Lisa Palmer started working with Graland’s youngest students in the Early Childhood Learning Center in 2013. A native of San Francisco, she has a master’s degree in education from the University of San Francisco and a bachelor’s degree in cultural anthropology from the University of California at Santa Cruz.