Lab News

  • Hands-on Activities to Build Early Math Skills

    May 06, 2013

    Hands-on Activities to Build Early Math Skills
    By Bernadette Grbic, http://www.momto2poshlildivas.com

    Bernadette Grbic

    One of the best ways to teach children math concepts is through hands-on games and activities.  Learning occurs easily when children are being actively engaged and having fun. As a teacher and mother, I have found that while children may struggle with certain math concepts, when they have the opportunity to practice those skills through stress-free, active and engaging activities, that’s when genuine learning takes place.

    I’ve used items like ping-pong or golf balls to create fun, hands on activities to help strengthen children’s number recognition, counting and comparing skills and foster an awareness of data analysis. Below are a few ways these household items can be used to build key skills in young learners.

     


    Skill: Number Recognition and Counting:
    To try this at home or school, all you need is some ping-pong or golf balls, a muffin tin and salad tongs.

    Provide numbered balls face down in a container and ask children to grab one using the salad tongs (this also sneaks in some fine motor practice).  Once a child has a ball, ask the child to tell you what number is written on it. If the child does not know, say the number out loud - don't fret, it's a learning opportunity.  Once you have discussed the number, ask the child to place it in the appropriate section of the muffin tin by matching the number written on the bottom of the tin. Continue until there are no balls left in your container.  Now start at the beginning and count together, touching each ball as you say its number. Your child has just reviewed counting, number recognition, number order and had some fine motor exercise - all while playing a game!

     

    Skill: Comparing and Sequencing Numbers: 
    Comparing numbers is a skill that children often need more time to practice. Working with young children to build these skills early on helps build a solid foundation for later math skills, including place value and data analysis.

    An easy way to practice comparing numbers is to grab some ping-pong or golf balls, a medium sized container to hold them in and an empty egg carton. Invite your child to close his or her eyes, reach in to the container and grab two of the balls. Have your child identify the numbers chosen and determine which number is the smallest and which is the largest. Place the balls in the empty egg carton so that you have two rows - one for the smallest numbers and one for the largest numbers.

    Once you have gone through all the balls in the container, you can extend the activity by inviting your child to place the balls in numerical order to further practice counting and number sequencing.



    Skills: Data Analysis & Comparing Numbers:
    We analyze data on a daily basis, whether we are comparing the best value at the store or choosing the best lane on the highway to help us reach our destination in the fastest time. We are always making mathematical comparisons and this is an important math concept to foster in children.

    Even the youngest learners can analyze data and compare numbers in fun, engaging and informal ways. You can graph the favorite colors/food/games/etc. of family members and discuss the results. You can also grab your ping-pong or golf balls and play one final game that will help foster those skills.

     

    This active game can be played with one or more children.  To play you will also need a large bin or container, some paper and a writing tool.  Have two children each pick a numbered ball from the container. Have them identify the chosen numbers and write them down on a simple chart. Adults will need to assist younger children. Allow children to take turns throwing their balls into the large bin. The largest numbered ball to make it into the container wins the round.  Given that not all balls will make it into the container, children will also get invaluable practice comparing numbers to zero.

    These activities are just a few ways to get children playing and building early math skills. For even more math fun be sure to visit the PBS KIDS Lab and check out the PBS Parents Play & Learn app. It is designed specifically for parents and provides fun games that you can play with your kids to help build math and literacy skills through everyday experiences.

  • Mobile Learning Program provides free PBS KIDS apps to low-income communities

    April 24, 2013

    Mobile Learning Program provides free PBS KIDS apps to low-income communities


    The program, a component of the Ready To Learn Initiative, recently added Wild Kratts “Creature Math” and Dinosaur Train “Classic in the Jurassic Jr.” to the list of apps available

    Loading dinosaurs onto a train. Playing games with a talking dog. Building odd-shaped houses with outer space robots.

    These aren’t just scenarios that expand kids’ imaginations, and they’re not just games based on PBS KIDS shows. Apps from Martha Speaks, Dinosaur Train, and Cyberchase are now included in the Mobile Learning Program, part of the Ready To Learn Initiative that provides parents and educators in high-need communities with free gift codes for PBS KIDS iOS apps.

    The Mobile Learning Program began in March 2012 with two apps – “All Aboard the Dinosaur Train” and “Dinosaur Train Camera Catch.” Today, the program boasts seven apps; Dinosaur Train “Classic in the Jurassic Jr.” and Wild Kratts “Creature Math” are the most recent additions. “Creature Math” lets kids protect their own wildlife sanctuary by practicing addition and subtraction to gather resources for their creature pals. “Classic in the Jurassic Jr.” asks kids to use math skills – like counting, sorting, and using a pan balance – to help Gilbert prepare Troodon Town for the big event.

    David Lowenstein, the senior director of Ready To Learn at PBS, said the idea for the program took form as PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting discussed ways to work with partners in high-need communities to provide low-income parents and educators with free PBS KIDS mobile content.

    “We want parents and educators in underserved communities who have access to smartphones and tablet devices to be able to download a variety of PBS KIDS apps for free. Through the Mobile Learning Program, they can,” Lowenstein said. “It supports the efforts of PBS member stations, Head Start centers, and other outreach partners to help bridge the achievement gap and improve the learning outcomes of children in their communities through free, anytime, anywhere, evidence-based content. And it demonstrates that every technology can offer an opportunity for learning,” he added.

    Tracy Williams, the program coordinator for the Mobile Learning Program, makes calls every week to organizations that request these free app codes. They discuss plans to distribute the codes, answer each other’s questions, and share excitement.

    “I’m helping people in underserved communities gain access to children’s content that builds key math and literacy skills,” Williams said regarding why the program is significant. “I come from an underserved community, so I understand the importance.”

    Williams is originally from Harlem, New York, and distributed codes there last July.

    “I hope to see the program expand a lot and get codes to people who need them,” Williams said. “I also hope it increases the quality of life of kids who need educational opportunities when it comes to gaming.”

  • Three Fun Ways to Use the Digital Camera to Build Early Math Skills

    April 08, 2013

    Three Fun Ways to Use the Digital Camera to Build Early Math Skills
    By Matt Gomez, http://mattbgomez.com

    Matt Gomez

    The digital camera has always been my favorite tech tool because it can give the child a voice in their learning. Nothing is more powerful than giving kids some control and choice in activities, and the digital camera lends itself to that well.  Since most teachers and parents already have a camera and there is little to no cost involved with taking pictures, I believe it is a highly underused tool.

    Here are my three favorite ways to help kids learn math using the camera:

     

     

     

    1. Recognizing Patterns
    Identifying, creating and completing patterns can help kids learn important problem solving and mathematical reasoning skills. PBS KIDS has a great app called Dinosaur Train Camera Catch that helps young kids work on patterns while practicing how to take pictures. My favorite part of the app is that the kids have to spin and move around to find the dinosaurs, so they won’t just be sitting while playing.

    Another way to learn about patterns with the camera is by simply taking pictures of manipulatives: toys or other items your child is interested in. In my kindergarten class the students have access to a camera anytime and they often use them to document patterns. To extend the activity, you can print the images and have the kids label the patterns ABAB, ABCABC, etc.

    2. Sequencing
    In my class, I always have a photographer in charge of taking pictures during our special activities. I print those images and use them as a literacy center. We also use the images to review vocabulary and practice ordinal words.  A great way to introduce sequencing for preschool children is to allow them to document parts of their day with a camera. Start with routines like getting ready in the morning and build on the concept. The key is allowing the kids to take the images and decide what images are important for the story. I have found that encouraging them to take many pictures is best; you can always work together to select the best images later.

     

    3. Number Sense
    For the youngest learners the camera can be used to find sets of items that match a number or even the numeral itself.  This is a fun way to keep kids engaged while shopping, at the grocery store or even driving in the car. Give them a camera, a number and let them go. As the kids get a better grasp of numbers and start working on breaking down numbers or addition, the camera is an amazing tool for documenting that learning.  One activity we repeat often in my class is called “Number of the Day.” I write a number on the board and the kids use simple objects, such as blocks, to show me different ways to create that number. They use the camera to document their ideas and then we work together as a class to write the math facts for each image.

     

    These activities are only a few of the many uses the digital camera has in helping kids learn, practice and explore math topics while having fun.

  • Math: A Fun Part of Your Everyday Life

    March 19, 2013

    Math: A Fun Part of Your Everyday Life
    by Maria Lando, TheMathMom.com

    Maria Lando

    Math. What is it good for? Do we really use it in our daily life?  

    Well, maybe a bit in cooking. It is all about proportions, right? You over-salted the soup and now need to increase the other ingredients proportionally. Your cake recipe asks for 2 and 1/2 cup of flour, do you have enough in this half-empty 5-pound bag?

    Perhaps, also in shopping. Math can tell you whether an additional 30% off after 50% off is the same as 80% off (it is not). Without thinking about it, you play with math weekly when deciding how far you’d be willing to drive for your food shopping, and how much to buy.

    As a parent, you are an expert at optimizing carpool routes. You know how to detect a pattern of lies, colds, or lice. You rely on math to decide whether you can afford to return to work after having another child.

    At home you know very well that a mattress must be tilted if it doesn't fit in a door entrance. You observe that a corner of your living room remains empty most of the time, and decide to place a home office there.

    Through the course of these everyday actions, we’ve used algebra, geometry, optimization, pattern analysis, logic, and statistics. We all are much better at math than we think.  We bounce math ideas in our head everywhere we go and with whatever we do: cooking, shopping, driving, home decorating, traveling, and parenting.
    Math is a great tool, advisor, and toy to enjoy and share with your kids.


    Play a game and ask your kids to imagine a brunch with math gone awry: two guests are standing because someone miscalculated the number of chairs; giant over-salted pancakes are served in small dessert plates; meanwhile maple syrup is presented in a soup bowl with a fork.

    During a car ride, math can help you stay sane and avoid the "are we there yet?" questions. Let's look for a pattern of all odd numbers in car license plates. What do you think is the most popular car color? Least popular? Counting is a thrill for preschoolers. Count all the traffic lights on the way. See whether you can spot more gas stations on the right or on the left.

    Math is all about patterns — shapes, colors, sizes. Order. This means that math is your best helper at clean-up time. Who can bring the most toys back to the toy basket? Who can group all the Legos by color? What do you think is the best way to fit all these blocks / Dominos back into the box?

    Need more ideas? PBS KIDS has made it so easy to integrate math into our everyday lives with the new PBS Parents Play & Learn app for iOS and Android. The app provides more than a dozen math and literacy-based games parents can play with their kids, each themed around a familiar location. So next time you’re at the grocery store, restaurant or, at home, you can teach your child math skills like counting, measurement and estimation.

    Fun, simple and useful math is everywhere around us helping to optimize and simplify our lives. All we need to do is notice, enjoy, sometimes apply it on purpose, and always present it to our kids as a toy, a tool and a friend.

  • PBS KIDS SURVEY FINDS PARENTS NEED HELP SUPPORTING MATH SKILLS FOR YOUNG CHILDREN

    March 06, 2013

    PBS KIDS SURVEY FINDS PARENTS NEED HELP SUPPORTING MATH SKILLS FOR YOUNG CHILDREN

    PBS KIDS announces “It All Adds Up,” offering families math learning tools, including a new app for parents of early learners

    SXSWedu, Austin, TX, March 6, 2013 – Although research shows that math skills at kindergarten entry can be an even stronger predictor of school achievement than reading skills1, many children do not realize their full potential in mathematics. While a variety of factors contribute to lagging math skills, a new survey released today by PBS KIDS suggests parents place less emphasis on math, since they view other skills as “the greatest predictor of achievement later in life,” ranking reading and literacy (26%) and the ability to pay attention and work hard (47%) as most indicative versus math (14%). The national survey of parents with children ages 2-12 also indicated that parents are less likely to support their kids’ math skills from the earliest ages, and that many parents have anxiety about supporting math learning at home. Responding to this need, PBS KIDS, in partnership with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), today announced at SXSWedu “It All Adds Up,” an effort that aims to boost math learning at home – and everywhere – by providing resources for parents.

    “It All Adds Up” is an awareness effort designed to expand the impact of Ready To Learn, a cooperative initiative between CPB and PBS, with funding from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Innovation and Improvement, to support the development of early math and literacy skills in children ages 2-8 from low-income families. Ready To Learn’s mission is to use the power of public media’s content as a catalyst for children’s learning in both math and literacy. This emphasis is especially important given that the U.S.’s ranking of 25 among 34 countries in children’s math achievement2 has prompted national concern. President Obama emphasized the importance of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills in his recent State of Union address, citing their importance in preparing this generation for a high-tech economy.  

    Yet PBS KIDS’ survey found that parents may be missing an opportunity to start early in building their kids’ math skills. Parents with older children are more likely to practice math skills daily with their kids than parents of younger children. Sixty percent of parents of 5-8-year-olds practice math daily with their kids, whereas only half of parents of 2-4-year-olds do. Parents are also more likely to practice reading skills with their kids than they are to practice math. This may be in part due to parents’ lower comfort levels with teaching math. Nearly 30 percent of parents reported anxiety about teaching their children math, and that anxiety is even greater for moms (33%) and parents with an education level of high school or less (32%).

    “The early years of life are most critical for learning both literacy and math; in fact, many children do not realize their full potential in mathematics because they are not getting consistent support from a young age,” said Lesli Rotenberg, General Manager, Children’s Programming, PBS. “The good news is that there are simple things parents can do to support early math learning that can all add up to make a big difference. We know that parents trust PBS KIDS and look to us for ways to support their kids’ learning, and we are excited to offer parents and caregivers free resources they can use on their mobile phones or computers, and offline activity ideas that make anytime a learning time.”

    “It All Adds Up” builds on the collection of more than 100 games and apps that PBS KIDS and CPB have launched over the past two years through Ready To Learn to help build math and literacy skills. The effort also introduces new multiplatform tools, including the new PBS Parents Play & Learn App and a new team of experts called Math Mentors, to help parents increase their own confidence with math and nurture their children’s love for math from an early age. All of these resources are accessible on PBS KIDS Lab, a site that aggregates games, apps and offline activities to help support math and reading learning for kids 2-8. The site also offers several gaming suites, each of which links a set of games across platforms – accessible through computers, mobile devices and interactive whiteboards – so that kids can engage with the same characters as they move from device to device. The content is also linked by curricular frameworks, leveraging games on a variety of platforms to support key math and reading skills.

    “Parents, caregivers and teachers have long trusted public media to provide high-quality educational content that is designed to help children learn anytime, anywhere,” said Debra Sanchez, Senior Vice President, Education and Children’s Content at CPB. “‘It All Adds Up’ brings together the best resources created through Ready To Learn to give our nation’s youngest learners a strong foundation in critical math skills that are essential to success in school.”  

    New “It All Adds Up” Resources Include:

    PBS Parents Play & Learn App
    PBS KIDS’ first app designed specifically for parents, PBS Parents Play & Learn provides more than a dozen math and literacy-based games parents can play with their kids, each themed around a familiar location, including the grocery store or restaurant or, at home, in the bath or in the kitchen. The bilingual (English/Spanish) app helps build math skills, including counting, measurement and estimation, and literacy skills, such as letter identification, rhyming and vocabulary. The app is especially useful for introducing the youngest of learners to reading and math concepts with games and activities that are leveled by stages: baby, toddler and preschool.

    The PBS Parents Play & Learn App is available for free from the App Store on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and for Android phones and tablets, including both the Kindle Fire HD 7 and Kindle Fire HD 8.9. For more details, visit pbskids.org/mobile.   

    In addition to Ready To Learn funds, PBS Parents Play & Learn was funded in part by the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.

    Math Mentors
    PBS KIDS has assembled a team of early childhood educators and educational bloggers who will provide tips and ideas for parents to help their children learn early math concepts and to integrate math activities into their daily lives. Parents can also visit PBS KIDS Lab for additional information and tools from the Math Mentors.  

    New FETCH! 3D-rendered Online Game: Ruff Ruffman’s Monumental Mini-golf
    Kids ages 6-8 will help Ruff build his monumental mini-golf course in this 3D-rendered game. The game is a publicly-facing beta, which means that it is still in development and is available online to give users a first look. In Monumental Mini-golf, kids safely partner with other players to solve puzzles and create structures while practicing spatial reasoning, measurement, and 2D- and 3D-rendered shape manipulation. As an incentive, at the end of the game, kids get the chance to the play mini-golf in the course they created. Players interact with all their favorite characters from FETCH! WITH RUFF RUFFMAN while learning important math skills in this unique game.

    Through the Ready To Learn Initiative, PBS KIDS offers offline activities, online games and mobile apps, most of which are available free, at pbskidslab.org.

    PBS KIDS will continue to build on this commitment to math learning with the launch of PEG + CAT this fall. The animated preschool series will follow the adorable, spirited Peg and her sidekick Cat as they embark on adventures and learn foundational math concepts and skills. Through efforts like “It All Adds Up,” PBS KIDS is increasingly serving kids where they live, learn and play – helping to make any time a learning time on mobile devices, on-air, online and beyond.

    1 Developmental Psychology Journal (2007)
    2 National Assessment of Education Progress Report (2011)

    Survey Methodology:
    PBS KIDS surveyed a sample of more than 1,000 parents who currently have a child between the ages of 2-12. Respondents were 20 years of age and older. Interviewing for this survey was completed during February 18-25, 2013.