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Supporting Mathematical Development in Young ChildreN

This video describes children's ability to compare two groups and notice if one has more or less. It also provides examples of how early childhood professionals can both explicitly teach this skill and support its development through daily routines and play.

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  • Video Transcript for Comparison

    This video has captions. You can turn them on by clicking the CC icon at the bottom of the video.
    Download a transcript of this video in .pdf format in English and Spanish.

    Dr. Sudha Swaminathan, Eastern Connecticut State University: Comparison is an important aspect in number sense. Because fundamentally, when we count, we have a purpose. We’re trying to determine if we have enough, if we need more.

    Caregiver: We’re building a fort.
    Child: This is more.

    Dr. Sudha Swaminathan: So comparison leads us to think about that intentionally. So when you have two groups—say, a group of four and a group of three—you want children to be able to determine which group has more. And originally, they might count the numbers, and they start to compare those quantitatively. Sometimes they compare it visually. Which looks like it has more?

    Child: That one’s big. That one’s little.

    How Can You Help Children to Make Comparisons? (1:08)

    Narrator: Adults can support children’s ability to compare amounts throughout the day.

    Supporting Math during Routines (1:19)

    Narrator: Daily routines provide opportunities to practice this skill in meaningful ways.

    Teacher: Somebody talk to me about those numbers. We’ve got four boys, four girls.
    Child: It’s the same.
    Teacher: It’s the same number.

    Yotisse Williams, Preschool Teacher, HCC Early Childhood Laboratory School: Lunchtime even, you know, some of the kids have fruits and vegetables, and we were counting the number of fruits and the number of vegetables. Who had the most, who had the least?

    Integrating Math Learning in Play (1:45)

    Narrator: While exploring materials, children naturally encounter differing amounts.

    Dr. Sudha Swaminathan: So when they’re playing with play dough, and they have a lot of play dough, and someone else has a little bit, they’re able to make those comparisons.

    Boy: Mine is getting higher than yours.
    Girl: Yeah.
    Boy: Don’t you know that?
    Girl: Yeah.

    Narrator: Adults can support children to make comparisons during play.

    Teacher: What size is this?
    Child: Smaller.
    Teacher: And this?
    Child: Bigger.

    Explicitly Teaching Math Concepts (2:20)

    Narrator: Through planned activities, children’s development of this skill can be strengthened.

    Teacher: It’s your job to figure out who has more. Which one is more - yellow or green?
    Child 1: One, two, three, four, five, six, seven.
    Child 2: I think I have more
    Child 1: One, two, three…

    Dr. Sudha Swaminathan: These comparisons of numbers and quantity leads them gradually to arithmetic, to looking at what’s more, what comes after, realizing that one more in a number sequence means one more in a quantity.

    Parent: Wait, how many do we have hanging on there so far?
    Child: Two. Now we’re going to have three.

    Dr. Sudha Swaminathan: And those basic, foundational skills are built when they start to compare groups.

    © 2016 Connecticut Office of Early Childhood
    Produced by the Center for Early Childhood Education at Eastern Connecticut State University.
    May be reprinted for educational purposes.
  • Producers: Terry Surprenant, Sean Leser, Julia DeLapp
    Script: Terry Surprenant
    Content Expert: Dr. Sudha Swaminathan
    Videography/Editing: Sean Leser
    Narration: Sean Leser
  • This video was funded by the Connecticut Office of Early Childhood to support implementation of the CT Early Learning and Development Standards (CT ELDS). See more CT ELDS mathematics videos and resources for using them in professional development

    The Center wishes to thank the following Connecticut programs, organizations, and agencies who assisted in the making of this video:
    Cathy Cares Child Care, Willimantic
    Child and Family Development Resource Center, Willimantic
    Connecticut Office of Early Childhood
    Cook Hill Integrated Preschool, Wallingford
    Cooperative Educational Services School Readiness Program, Trumbull
    Early Childhood Laboratory School at Housatonic Community College, Bridgeport
    EASTCONN Killingly Head Start, Killingly
    EASTCONN Plainfield Head Start, Plainfield
    Natchaug Elementary School, Willimantic
    Out Came the Sun Child Care, Windham
    Windham Early Head Start, Columbia