Math, the Kindergarten Way

Christy and I were both trained in Math Their Way early on in our teaching careers.  In a nutshell, Math Their Way advocates the use of concrete materials for the children to manipulate to develop and gain a deeper understanding of the Math concepts.  The children are then able to use their knowledge and understanding of the concepts to make meaningful learning connections between the concrete (manipulatives) and the abstract (symbols).  For more information, click on Math Their Way.

Despite the changes over the years in Math curriculum, the advent of new programs and our professional responsibility to remain current of new thinking and strategies, Math Their Way has always formed the core of our Math program in Kindergarten.  We teach a hands-on, child-centred, manipulative based Math program to ensure our students are developing a concrete understanding of Kindergarten Math concepts.  We use a wide variety of manipulatives including pattern blocks, multilinks, threading beads, links, and blocks.

photo 2-3

We start our school year with Free Exploration. This enables us to directly teach careful use of the manipulatives, working cooperatively in small groups and transitioning between the tables as we rotate our way through the Math Centres.  This is an important time for us as we are also establishing important classroom routines which we continue to reinforce for the remainder of the school year.

We assign the children to Math groups and based on our observations of the social interactions, will make adjustments as necessary.  The children play and explore with the Math manipulatives:  they are creating, building, patterning and counting with the many different kinds of materials we have in our classrooms.

photo 1-2Our next big Math unit is Patterns.  Even when the unit is completed, we still explore and look for patterns all year.  Our Math Their Way calendar is another opportunity for us to create and play with patterns on a daily basis.  We have a special pattern for every month and try to incorporate patterning activities into most things we do.

Now, we’ve just finished exploring number in Math.

According to the Ministry of Education Draft Curriculum for Kindergarten Math Concepts and Content, Kindergarten children must know and understand number concepts to 10 and be able to partition numbers to 10.

Over the years we’ve found that although many of our students can count easily by rote, the concept of number has proven to be more difficult for some of them.

Number includes:

  • Exploring patterns and number with manipulatives
  • Counting (eg., counting manipulatives to a specific number with one to one correspondence)
  • Exploring the processes addition and subtraction, multiplication and division with manipulatives (we don’t name these processes specifically, but refer to making “groups of” or “sets”)
  • Exploring number combinations of a specific number (partition) with manipulatives (eg., 5 = 0+5, 1+4, 2+3, 3+2, 4+1, 5+0)
  • Arrangements of numbers (eg., dice)
  • Connecting the concrete (manipulatives) with the abstract (symbols)
We have created a number combination, or partition, and ascribed a number to the sets.

We have created a number combination, or partition, and ascribed a number to the sets.

We have counted sets of numbers

We have counted sets of numbers







In these photos, we’re exploring the number 8.

We made patterns with sets of 8.

We made patterns with sets of 8.

We asked our students to count out sets of 8.

We asked our students to count out sets of 8.







Connecting the concrete to the abstract.

Representing our learning


We made a connection by creating a picture with wooden blocks and representing our learning by counting and matching the blocks with paper squares.


We hope in teaching Math this way, the Kindergarten way, through exploration, creativity and play, our children will appreciate and embrace the beauty of patterns and logic that make up their mathematical world.


9 thoughts on “Math, the Kindergarten Way

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