“Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” ~ Albert Einstein
A while back I read One by Kathryn Otoshi to the children in my class. This is truly one of my favourite books. In addition to showing how colours can represent different feelings, and to conveying a positive message about standing up to bullies, the book introduces children to the numbers one through seven. One little boy loved this book so much that he insisted I read it to him each morning. He particularly liked the character called Red! The book provided a great opportunity for the children to express their understanding of the story through creative art, and printing words and number symbols. In addition, we enjoyed watching a dramatization of the story by other kindergarten children.
The reason that I am sharing this experience now is that I have been attending some
professional development workshops on mathematics in kindergarten. I have also attended a thought provoking lecture by Dr. Daniel Ansari on math and brain development (The Calculating Brain). I have never felt particularly confident about my mathematical capabilities, but all that I have been learning recently brought to mind this recent effort to bring together literacy, numeracy, creative art and drama, to promote learning in different ways. I have long believed that arts experiences can facilitate learning in other areas and as far as I am concerned, mathematics is no exception. For me this is, and will remain, a creative approach to teaching.
What I have been learning about mathematics in kindergarten and about brain development has reminded me about something important. Creativity is not only about making something new. It can also be about seeing something in new ways. For me, mathematics was something to be feared (much like Blue feared Red in the story One). In certain ways, my struggles with math made me feel less smart than others. These workshops and lectures have made me aware of new research and new ideas that have challenged beliefs I held that no longer serve a purpose for me. I realized that understanding this information is in my grasp and that as an early childhood educator I am in a unique position to transform children’s understanding of numeracy, just as my understanding is being transformed. I am still learning, and I can allow new knowledge to help me create new ways of teaching. Who knew that seeing mathematics through new eyes could be a catalyst for all of this? I feel a renewed sense of wanting to be one educator who wants to use new ideas to make a difference.
And as Kathryn Otoshi writes at the end of her story, “Sometimes it just takes one.”