This is a call for help. My son’s kindergarten teacher has invited parents to come in and talk about their careers. I’d like to go in and talk about math. I’d like to have some interactive hands-on mathematics activities for the kids to do. I also want them to be activities outside the typical kindergarten curriculum. [Update: my math lesson has already happened. Read about it here.]
Do you have any suggestions? If so, please leave them in the comments below.
I have no expertise in childhood development, but here are some of the facts I’ve observed based on the abilities of my son and his friends.
- Most of the kids are 5 years old (a couple are 6).
- They can count, but they don’t necessarily know any arithmetic (although some do).
- They know the alphabet, but they can’t read or write except maybe the most basic words (such a their names).
- They can’t draw very well (eg. straight lines, circles, etc.).
- They can uses scissors, tape, glue, staplers, etc., but their accuracy is not great.
- They can do some simple logical reasoning.
- They have short attention spans.
Here are some ideas that I came up with. (Some of these were suggested by my colleagues and my followers on Twitter.) This list is the result of a brainstorming exercise, so I know that some ideas are half-formed and some are too advanced for this age group, but I still kept them on the list.
Paper folding, cutting, taping
- Mobius band cutting and coloring activities
- The mysterious paper flap
- Cut a hole in an index card big enough to step through
- Folding the platonic solids
- Square bubble wands blow spherical bubbles
- Knotted bubbles
- Bubbles inside cubes and tetrahedra
- Cylindrical bubbles
- How many squares do you see? (or an easier version of this one)
- How many triangles do you see? (or an easier version of this one)
- Tessellation activities
- I have a set of big geometry tools: compass, ruler, protractor. Find an activity for them to do with these.
- Explore symmetries of shapes
- Shapes of constant width
- Teach them the game Set
- List three things in a sequence, ask for the fourth (for example, a picture of a triangle, a square, and a pentagon)
- What do these have in common?
Drawing and coloring
- Simple bridges of Königsberg/graph tracing problems
- 4-color theorem
- Coloring patterns in square, triangular, hexagonal graph paper
- Permutations (using a tree): We have 3 pairs of shoes, 4 shirts/dresses, and 3 hats. How many outfits are possible?
- Rock-scissors-paper tournament
- Talk about orders of magnitude—1, 10, 100, 1000, 10000, etc.—and give examples of each
- Fibonacci sequence and spirals in nature
- Pick an easy matchstick puzzle (but uses something besides matchsticks!)
Knot theory (some of these are definitely too advanced)
- Have everyone stand in a circle with hands thrust toward the center of the circle. Have the children grab random hands. The result is a giant human knot or link. Have them unknot themselves by taking turns letting go, changing a crossing, and grabbing hold of their partner’s hand.
- Take a long string and tie the ends around Alice’s wrists. Bob’s hands are tied together in a similar way, except his string passes through the loop made by Alice’s arms and her string. Can they become disentangled without pulling the looped string off their own hands?
- Alice holds a long unknotted string with one free end in each hand. Can she hand the string to Bob (one end to one hand, the other end to his other hand) so that when he receives it it is knotted?
- Charley is wearing a big, baggy t-shirt. He clasps his hands in front of him. Can Alice and Bob take off and manipulate the shirt so that it goes back on Charley inside out without Charley unclasping his hands?
- Bob is wearing a big, baggy t-shirt. He stands face-to-face with Alice and holds her hands to form a circle. Can Charley take the shirt off of Bob and put it on Alice without them letting go of their hands?
- Tie three strings to a chair. Braid them together in any way (no knots though!) so that the left strand ends in the left position, the middle one in the middle, and the right-most one on the right. Tape the free ends together. Figure out how to unbraid it without untaping the ends. (It is always possible.)
- Turn a coffee cup into a donut without breaking a loop