All Articles Education How to establish a digital math culture in kindergarten

How to establish a digital math culture in kindergarten

6 min read


One of the things I enjoy about exploring mathematics with young mathematicians is their excitement and authentic, genuine mindset in regards to learning. I am energized by their discoveries when they are exploring new concepts. Connections are made easily and this inspires students to look deeper. I also enjoy the many technologies that help me to capture my students mathematical understanding. Technology helps give everyone a voice.

During the month of November, we’ve been focusing on attributes of two- and three-dimensional shapes. Some of the two-dimensional attributes we are exploring include triangle, square, rectangle, circle and rhombus. Three-dimensional attributes include sphere, cylinder, cone and cube. Being a kindergarten teacher, I have lots of opportunities for my students to create, design and identify a variety of attributes inside and outside of the classroom.

I also look for tools and opportunities for my students to experience what attributes are and the special features they have. Providing hands-on activities is important so that my students can interact with what they are exploring and begin to make mathematical connections too. Through connecting, learning becomes meaningful and students begin to develop an understanding.

Here’s a look at some of the lessons and technology tools we’ve been using during our study of two-and three-dimensional shapes. The activities below address a range of Common Core State Standards, including Geometry: K.G.1 – K.G.6 and Speaking & Listening: SL.K.1

We integrated a variety of technology throughout our lessons, and the tools became part of our learning culture and were not an add on or a distraction. In regards to this mathematical experience, we used iPads, Twitter, blogs, document camera, applications such as Geoboard and AudiMemos. Through these technologies, all learning is represented and shared. I am always thinking about how to capture learning inside and outside of the class. What will it look like? What will it sound like?

Introduction and discussion

To start, I asked students to choose one attribute from the block area. After they made their choice, they sit with their dyad partner and share what they notice. Through this type of conversation and experience, my students have a chance to share, connect and begin to make observations about their attributes’ specific features. As a class, we had a whole-group conversation about what we noticed. Through our conversation, I was able to ask deeper questions about the similarities among their attributes. We also considered what we could create with them. Students were given an opportunity to share a video or photograph that they had taken of their attribute with an iPad.

Podcasting on the iPad is another  great way for students to share their observations. Invite students to have their mathematical conversation and record it. This is a wonderful way to introduce the idea of reflection. What did you hear? What did you learn? I sometimes email them directly to students’ families to help engage parents.

My students came up with the idea that they could all work collaboratively together to build a structure using their attributes. Every week my students work collaboratively to create and design a structure as a class. They photograph the structures and post them in our classroom and on our our class blog or Kidblog. All week they add to their ideas and change their thinking.  This is a wonderful, authentic way that young children can make sense of new content, while also exploring what they are learning as well.

This type of activity is so rich and offers engagement and collaboration opportunities for my students to explore a variety of geometric attributes and have meaningful mathematical conversation as they create and explore. This is also an opportunity for me to model, explicit high-level vocabulary through our conversations, including terms like collaboration, attributes, sides, corners, similar, different, conversation, connection and justification.

Here are some of the conversation I overheard: “Look, two triangles make oen small square. If you turn it around it makes a rhombus;” “This is a pillar because it is a cylinder. A cylinder is a cylinder because it has no straight sides. It is all curved!”

Later other materials are added and my students begin to explore the idea of symmetry. Again this is another opportunity for students to connect, have conversations and explore the new geometric concepts we are exploring.

Taking a walk outside I begin to ask my students to look for attributes that they see in nature. This is really intriguing and motivating for students. They are outside, exploring the natural world while getting fresh air and moving around. Connections are made, students are engaged and making discoveries about what they are learning.

We also had an opportunity to use Geoboard. This is a great app that invites students to create and design what they are exploring and understanding in regards to geometric concepts. It is free too! We explored a triangle. What is it? How do you know this is a triangle? Are all triangles the same size? Where do we find triangles?

After my students create triangles, we were able to take a screenshot which saves automatically to the camera roll. Now each of my students can upload what they created to their kidblog. I then email parents letting them know we have created a new post and to make sure to leave a positive comment and/or compliment. The next day we read the comments. My students really enjoy this. They tell me that reading the comments people leave is their favorite part of blogging.  This gives me a huge insight about how important it is to share. Through sharing we get inspired to connect and have conversations about our learning. I also think about how enriching others perspectives can be as well. Through sharing our perspectives, we learn about the importance of valuing all ideas and being open in regards to our thinking.

It is important to share the technologies we are using as educators, but also how we are using them in regards to establishing a digital culture for our students and their families. This is how we model and give explicit examples and experiences of how technology can become a positive and interactive part of our classroom culture. The technology opens up dialogue, captures our understanding and encourages us all to take risks and build confidence.

Sharon E. Davison teaches kindergarten at Allen Brook School in Williston, Vt. She recently was recognized as a VT IGNITED Teacher, an award given to teachers who are transformative and innovative. Read her blog and follow her on Twitter @kkidsinvt.