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Math and Science Storytimes

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This presentation was given as part of "Storytimes With Purpose and Punch," a pre-conference workshop at the 2011 Kentucky Public Library Association Conference. Contact Mary Landrum …

This presentation was given as part of "Storytimes With Purpose and Punch," a pre-conference workshop at the 2011 Kentucky Public Library Association Conference. Contact Mary Landrum (mlandrum@lexpublib.org) at the Lexington Public Library if you have any questions or need help finding additional resources for your storytime.


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  • We can incorporate math and science for the same reasons we incorporate early literacy skills. We aren’t teaching math and science. Instead, we are laying the foundations that will help children master math and science when they go to school.
  • In the 2006 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) comparison, American students ranked 21st out of 30 in science literacy among students from developed countries, and 25th out of 30 in math literacy. On the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) math tests, 4th graders showed no signs of progress for the first time in many years, and 8th graders tallied only modest evidence of progress.  We are not advancing as we must. (www.whitehouse.gov/issues/education/educate-innovate)
  • The book gives you an opportunity to talk about math and science concepts in an age-appropriate, and fun, context! The activity doesn’t just help kids practice skills, it lets them interact with others and develop social skills. These social skills will help them be team players in school and work environments.Children are naturally curious. They explore math and science—the world around them—all the time. We are just nurturing and reinforcing this behavior in a math and science storytime. From the Vermont Center for the Book’s What’s the BIG Idea Math & Science Librarian Manual.
  • Ten Little Fingers on my hands. Count to ten. Number sense: the ability to count, be able to continue counting, counting an object only once, seeing relationships between numbers. Ability to understand that the number 3 relates to the three fingers you are holding up.One-to-one correspondence: the concept that you count an object only once.Counting backwards, as in Five Little Monkeys. This also can be presented as subtraction. Five takeaway one is fout, etc.
  • Chook, chook, chook, chook, chookGood morning, Mrs. Hen.How many chickens have you got?Madam, I’ve got ten.4 of them are yellowAnd 4 of them are brown,And 2 of them are speckled red,The nicest in the town. This rhyme teaches us colors and numbers. It also helps us understand the idea of part + part = whole: 4 yellow chickens + 4 brown chickens + 2 speckled red chickens = a set of ten chickens. 
  • Note that predicting the outcome also helps build narrative skills, one of the early literacy skills. We build narrative skills by asking, “what do you think will happen next?”
  • List the other items we tested: button, keychain, ruler, cork
  • You can use any book about food or colors. I used Denise Fleming’s Lunch. We talked about going home and looking for different colors in our lunch. I told them that color is an attribute, and explained what it means. This builds their vocabulary—another link to early literacy skills! I also mentioned that when you eat a meal with lots of different colors, you are getting lots of fruit and vegetables, which means you’re eating a healthy meal. So you sneak nutrition in, then completely undermine that lesson by sorting candy.
  • We put all the red suckers together, all the purple suckers together, and all the orange suckers together to see all the like items together.
  • The candy is a visual aid to help children understand comparing large quantities to small quantities. Who has more suckers? Bridget and Willow have more suckers than Snigdha. Who has the same number? Bridget and Willow. They both have two.
  • What shapes do you see in the pigs’ houses? Why aren’t straw and good building materials?
  • Spatial relations—learn how shapes work together to make structures, how to turn pictures in their minds into finished, physical productsMeasurement: how many units tall is your structure? Nonstandard and standard unitsLearning what makes a structure strong: that some materials are stronger than others, that some shapes support more weight than others
  • Transcript

    • 1. We aren’t doing rocket science…but we are helping create tomorrow’s rocket scientists
      Math and Science at Storytime
      Mary Landrum
      Lexington Public Library
      Northside Branch
      mlandrum@lexpublib.org
    • 2. Why Math and Science?
      Math and science jobs are good jobs!
      BUT American students perform poorly in these fields, compared to their international peers
      Early intervention can give children the skills and confidence they need to succeed in STEM fields.
      What in the world are STEM fields?
      Science
      Technology
      Engineering
      Mathematics
    • 3. How Storytime Builds Math and Science Skills
      The story provides a context for math and science concepts
      The activity lets children practice math and science skills
      Math and science help children make sense of their world
      www.mothergooseprograms.org
    • 4. What Will We Learn Today?
      Some basic math and science concepts
      Some books that can introduce those concepts to young children
      Some activities that will help children develop their math and science skills
    • 5. Examples of how to include math and science in your storytime
      3-2-1…BLASTOFF!
    • 6. Fingerplays Teach Math Skills
      Many fingerplays involve counting
      Other math skills
      Number sense
      One-to-one correspondence
      Adding and subtracting
    • 7. Nursery Rhymes Teach Math, Too
      “One, Two, Buckle My Shoe.”
      “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep”
      Recommended book: Mother Goose Numbers on the Loose, illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon
    • 8. Mr. Gumpy’s Outing by John Burningham
      Science Concept: Predicting the Outcome
      What will happen when all those animals fill up Mr. Gumpy’s boat?
    • 9. Mr. Gumpy’s Activity: Float or Sink?
      Science Concept: Predicting the Outcome
      Will the duck float or sink?
      Science Concept: Identifying an Item’s Attributes
      Why do you think the duck will float?
    • 10. Lunch by Denise Fleming
      Science Concept: Identifying an Item’s Attributes
      Attribute: characteristic, “what makes it special”
      In this case, the attribute is color
      Don’t be shy about using the word attribute!
    • 11. Sorting our Dessert—Candy!
      Science Concept: Sorting Items by their Attributes
      The color of the candy wrapper was our attribute we used for sorting
    • 12. Counting and Comparing our Candy Stashes
      Math Concept: Counting
      How many suckers does Willow have?
      Math Concept: Comparing Quantities
      Who has more suckers?
      Who has the same number of suckers?
    • 13. Building and Construction
      Math Concepts:
      Recognizing shapes in structures
      Recognizing patterns and symmetry
      Counting
      Measuring
      Science Concepts:
      Understand the different properties of different building materials
    • 14. Building Houses for the Pigs!
      Math Concept: Recognizing shapes
      What shape is the roof?
      What shape are your walls?
      Math Concept: Spatial Relations
      Math Concept: Measurement
      Science Concept: learning what attributes make a structure strong
    • 15. Conclusions and Questions
      These are only a few examples of a few concepts.
      Seek out opportunities and resources for further exploration of math and science concepts
      Public libraries as essential partners in school readiness
      Questions?