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Could finding patterns in finger painting be the first step to educating a tech genius?

Jane Bobbermein - Tuesday, April 05, 2016

According to a recent article in the Australian Financial Review, one of the world’s most senior women in the fast growing cyber security industry says kindergarten children should be the focus of government attempts to boost the number of tech-savy workers because many students – especially girls – have already given up on maths and science.

The article states that instead of waiting until high school to teach algebra to a shrinking number of boys and girls, teaching art and music to pre-schoolers – finding the rhythms in nursery rhymes and drawing patterns in finger paintings – could be the secret to building a creative and digitally literate workforce.

This article highlights the importance of exposure to quality play based and enquiry based learning in early education and draws direct links to the skills our children will need to survive as adults in a tech saturated future employment world.  Maths in early childhood is about more than counting, it covers a whole range of early mathematically concepts.  Below is an extract from the Queensland Kindergarten Learning Guide relating directly to exploring and engaging with numeracy in personally meaningful ways for children in our Kindergarten year:

Teachers promote the following aspects of children’s learning:

  • interest in exploring mathematical thinking and problem solving in daily situations, e.g. “I wonder how many children would weigh the same as a baby elephant”, “How much sand do you need to fill the tray?”
  • awareness of the numeracy connected to their family and community practices, cultures and heritages
  • concepts and specific language for exploring:

        the properties of shapes, e.g. corner, curve, straight, side, point

        repeating patterns, e.g. long, short, long, short; red triangle, blue square, red triangle, blue square

        position and direction, e.g. as they climb, dance or play a game

        time and order of everyday events, e.g. last night, today, first, next, last, soon, later, morning, afternoon, lunch time

        money and money exchange, e.g. to pay for items in a pretend shop

        a whole and its parts, e.g. cutting a ball of dough into parts and then recreating the whole ball, putting together puzzle pieces

  • concepts and specific language for exploring and describing the attributes of objects and collections, e.g. shape, size and weight concepts and specific language for comparing and ordering collections of objects by number, length, height, width, mass and volume, e.g. more, less, same, longer, wider, heavier, big, full, empty
  • awareness of and interest in numbers in their environment and the meanings they carry, e.g. to tell about quantity, time or size
  • interest in counting and recording numbers for play and real purposes
  • skills for identifying and comparing the number of objects in small collections, e.g. match, point to and say number names in sequence.

The foundation for these skills and knowledge are developed from birth and are evident throughout quality early learning settings each and every day.  Prevailing best practice in early childhood in Australia says that learning and play happens together and learning is not really possible for this age group without play. 

So when you next see a young child playing with the items in the water trough in the infant playground, you may also wish to look a little closer and see that that child is also learning about floating and sinking, experimenting with which items float and engaging in the wonder of why an item like a leaf floats on the water when the branch it came from sinks.  This child is playing, but she is also engaging in science experimentation and discovering mathematical concepts such as mass, friction and gravity (pretty cool learning for a two year old, hey!).

Or the next time you see your child playing in the café and shop area in Kindergarten, you can immediately see the fun he is having, but you can also glimpse a little deeper and you might see the exchange of money, counting out items and comparing and ordering collections by length, height, width mass or volume and know that your child is exploring and engaging with numeracy and undergoing the very best kind of preparation for formal schooling.

So, the next time you walk into an early learning environment and see a child industriously creating an painting - which may just look like a bunch of repeated swirls and circles to you - smile and know that that child is most likely exploring and experimenting with patterns and just may be a future tech genius.

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