Highlighting Ideas from Joyful Math: Invitations to Play and Explore in the Early Childhood Classroom by Deanna Pecaski McLennan.
Finding small spaces for joy, both for teachers and students, can seem like both a simple and a radical idea. In Joyful Math: Invitations to Play and Explore in the Early Childhood Classroom, kindergarten teacher Deanna Pecaski McLennan invites us into her classroom, a space where mathematical play happens throughout the day, in all spaces of the classroom and beyond.
In today’s post, we’re zooming in on Joyful Math’s chapter on “Exploring Math Through Art.” In this chapter, Deanna points out that young children are both natural artists and mathematicians. “Anyone who has ever watched a young child draw or paint for the first time knows that children do not require formal lessons or guidance in order to begin to make art…And the same can be said of their relationship to math! Children are capable mathematicians with their own ideas and ways of problem solving long before they enter school.”
You may find yourself nodding along at this idea, but also wondering how to make time for exploring math and art in your day. Deanna suggests setting up an art center for small groups of children to use during Choice Time. You might also offer an art choice first thing in the morning as students come into the classroom or as a closing activity before children leave for the day.
Tips for Setting Up An Art Center in Your Classroom
In Joyful Math, Deanna offers a few tips on setting up and maintaining an art center in a way that feels both inviting and manageable in a busy classroom.
- Build the art space with the children.
- Provide a table and chairs so that children can work together on a communal project or engage with one another’s work, while sitting side by side or across from each other.
- Consider creating an art shelf near the art center.
- Inspire students with materials.
- Organize materials so that children can easily find them and put them away.
- Display children’s artwork.
Exploring Art and Math Together
As children engage in art-making activities, mathematical ideas often surface in their conversations. In Deanna’s classroom, some children were interested in making paper sculptures by gluing strips of colored paper onto a cardboard base. As more children in the class became interested in having a turn making these paper sculptures, Deanna helped them dig into mathematical questions that came out of their exploration such as “What happens when we fold the paper in half?” “What happens to the length of the strips when you fold them like an accordion? and “What new patterns can I create in my sculptures by folding, twisting and looping paper?”
As children dive into open-ended art explorations, you might consider making a chart of their mathematical noticings and wonders, or sharing some of their ideas in a whole-class reflection. However you make space for playing with math and art together, you’re giving children the much-needed time and space to play, process their ideas and feelings, and learn about math beyond a worksheet.
To spark some ideas for exploring math and art together in your classroom, we’re sharing five open-ended mathy art activities from Joyful Math. What will you try out in your classroom?
To read more about Joyful Math, you can check out the free preview on our website and read
Deanna’s guest blog post on “Bringing Math Learning Outdoors.” You can find Deanna on Twitter and Instagram @McLennan1977.
Until next time, may your Monday be mathematically marvelous!