Sharon Hogan and her preschool class at Mary Gage Peterson Elementary School in Chicago had all kinds of fun with the way Eric Carle’s The Secret Birthday Message plays with the two main faces of geometry—shapes and spatial sense.
The class made up its own treasure map to correspond with the one in the story and then brought the map to life as they set up an obstacle course.
Throughout the process, the children were surrounded by two- and three-dimensional shapes and involved in recognizing, naming, drawing, and building with them. They also practiced using directional language such as “down the stairs” or “through the opening” and relative words like “near to.”
Hogan knew that both firsthand second-language learners need many repetitions of these terms to understand them. This is especially important as these words can describe a relationship between two objects that shift. For example, one person pointing left looks as if they are pointing right to someone facing them, or a bush that is in front of a group of students is soon behind them as they continue along a path.
The Early Mathematics Education Project, launched with the support of the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, works with teachers to bring foundational mathematics to the early childhood classroom. More than 250 teachers have participated in the program to date.