Creating Moments of Math Learning Throughout the School Day

Math learning can occur throughout the school day by integrating math into classroom transitions and routines.

Having many opportunities to see and talk about math promotes young children’s math development. Learning math is like learning to use a special kind of lens that helps you see the world in different ways. Math language can help children think about and communicate the math that they see. Children build their math lenses and math language skills during math-specific classroom activities, like math center time, but math learning can occur throughout the day by integrating math into classroom transitions and routines.

During everyday classroom routines—like setting up, cleaning up, and lining up—there are many opportunities for teachers to engage children in fun and meaningful math learning. With support from teachers and minimal advance planning, these brief but necessary transitions can be times for productive math learning. Together, these brief moments of math learning accumulate and support children’s math development.

Quick Ideas for Practicing Math Skills

DREME created Math Moments, a collection of research-informed, easy-to-implement activities to support early childhood teachers in providing opportunities for children to learn math during daily classroom routines. Math Moments are designed to be used throughout the school year, with teachers adapting them as children build their math skills. Each Math Moment includes examples of prompts that teachers can use and a modification to add variety or adjust the challenge. These suggestions are meant to offer teachers ideas for engaging their students in math that teachers can adapt based on their students’ needs and instructional goals.  

The activities focus on six key early math topics:

  • Addition & Subtraction
  • Data
  • Measurement
  • Number, Counting, & Cardinality
  • Patterns
  • Spatial Relations

Many of the Math Moments can be done in-the-moment, just by asking questions that prompt children to think mathematically. Some Math Moments use cards with shapes, sets of dots, or numerals on them. Teachers can use the cards provided or create their own.

We hope that teachers will create their own Math Moments, too, building on the ideas the Math Moments offer. Then, use the same Math Moment again all year, building on the adaptation ideas.

About the Authors

Ariadne Nelson is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Chicago.

Leslie Villaverde is a senior research assistant in the Cognitive Development Lab at the University of Chicago.

Fujiuju Chang is a PhD candidate in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Amy Claessens is an associate professor and the Gulbrandsen Distinguished Chair in Early Childhood Education in the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Susan Levine, Ph.D., is the Rebecca Anne Boylan Professor of Education and Society in the Department of Psychology at the University of Chicago.