With the current emphasis on teaching STEM subjects in the early grades, one program has found a way to not neglect other areas by teaching pre-k math through art. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math.
Teachers are looking at ways to encourage their students to be more math-oriented. For one program in New Orleans, the solution is to start introducing math early — as early as preschool.
Teaching the basics of algebraic thinking to 15 preschoolers is not an easy task, but it is one that Nanette Ledet undertakes each day. Counting scarves and identifying patterns are two concepts that will help later with algebra.
The special program at the Educare Center in Gentilly is a collaboration with Wolf Trap New Orleans, an arts organization based in Virginia. Wolf Trap set out to teach reading through art, but now has a focus on STEM. Jenny James, Wolf Trap director, says that was serendipitous.
“They saw that students were making gains in math concepts despite the fact that the focus was on literacy,” she says. “Just by the natural concepts in art forms, imagine the gains the students would make in math.”
Art and math were surprisingly a more natural fit, she says. For the past three months, the preschoolers have taken a half-hour class that will prime them to learn math in Kindergarten and grade school.
Just by moving scarves around, Ledet teaches math.
“We were using elements of patterns, which is the beginning of algebraic thinking for children this age, and also counting, sequential counting, and line order,” she says.
The scarves are like the sides of an equation that children will see in later years. Learning to even out the two sides is the basis of algebra. The children are also learning pattern recognition through dance moves. The Wolf Trap program points out everyday applications of math in the real world.