Kindergarten teachers have the opportunity to build a mathematical foundation their students will use throughout their academic careers. Standard units of measurement like rulers, measuring tapes, and yardsticks are common, but using nonstandard units of measurement with young students can be a creative and playful way to instill a love of mathematics while providing skills students can use for years to come.
Fill the Shapes
Area is the amount of space inside the boundary of a two-dimensional shape. Kindergartners learn to identify two-dimensional shapes early in the year, and once students have this ability, they can learn to find the area. Pass out several shape cutouts. Starting with four-sided shapes such as squares or rectangles will be easier for beginning students. Have the students cover the shapes with pattern block squares or Unifix Cubes and count how many manipulatives it takes to cover the entire shape. Then students should practice writing the number that describes the area. Later, students can complete the activity again by covering the shapes with crackers, marshmallows, or pieces of cereal. Once they find the area, they can enjoy the snack.
Defining a large space in the classroom and having students find the area is also a great way for students to practice this skill. Tape off an area of the floor, perhaps half of the classroom rug or the space surrounding the reading corner. Then have students work together to cover the space with construction paper squares. Remind the students that the squares should be touching, but not overlapping. Students can then count how many squares they needed to cover the area. By making the papers one square foot, you can incorporate a standard unit of measurement by using a ruler to show the students the measurements of each square.
Measure and Compare
Draw several shapes with sidewalk chalk on the blacktop or other outside space. Provide students with building blocks of varying sizes. Have them measure the blocks with a ruler, determining which blocks are longer or shorter. Then have them predict how many of each type of block it will take to cover the area. Consider the following types of questions: How many small blocks will it take to cover the area? How many large blocks will we need? Why does the size of the block used for measuring change the amount we need to find the area? Working with a partner, students can cover the shapes and discuss their findings.
Give each student a large piece of construction paper or a sheet of butcher paper. Then have students use finger paints to cover their papers with handprints. Students should count how many handprints it takes to cover the paper, and record the number on the bottom of the page. Then display the artwork in the classroom and compare the numbers. Students with smaller hands should have more handprints than students with larger hands. Remind the students of this, and have them compare hands with their classmates as they reflect on the lesson.
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