This article appeared in the Spring 2014 issue of Erikson on Children.
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McCormick Math Minute: Discover foundational mathematics for young children — in 60 seconds or less

Names and some creative activities can build mathematical thinking, as well as a sense of community in the classroom.

Teachers can begin each morning by asking the children to sort themselves according to a particular “rule” related to the spelling of their names. This is a binary sort: one group has the characteristic and the other doesn’t. Some possibilities:

  • Names that begin or end in a specific letter
  • Names that have 2 or more vowels
  • Names with a double consonant

To build mathematical thinking, have the children think and talk about what they found. To begin, children in the “have” group say their names and why they belong in the “have” group. For example:

  • “My name is Alejandro and I have an ‘a’ at the beginning of my name.”
  • “My name is Jaime, and I have 3 vowels in my name: a, i, and e.”
  • “My name is Michelle and I have two l’s in my name.”

Then have the children count how many people are in the “have” group and “have not” group. Record the findings for one day’s rule and compare with the sizes of the groups using other rules.

Soon, the children will get to know each other better — all the while learning the foundational math concept of data analysis and several Big Ideas in Mathematics, including that the same collection can be sorted in different ways, and that attributes can be used to sort collections into sets.