Mathematical Thinking & Science Discovery

It is the belief of Hands On Minds On that Mathematical Thinking and Science Discovery go hand in hand.  Children are exposed several times a day in meaningful experiences that allow them to observe the world around them, to think scientifically and solve problems in a mathematical way.

Hands On Minds On uses an integrated hands on approach to teaching mathematical understanding and science inquiry.  The program uses activities that allow students varied opportunities for sorting and classifying on their journey to understanding number sense.

Some such activities include sorting beans by size shape or color, sorting cereal by color and using graphing to represent numbers pictorially and numerically.

The program discourages the use of worksheets for teaching math and gives students real life examples to manipulate numbers.

One way this is done is through cooking activities.  Cooking is done every Friday and provides students with the opportunity to count, measure and understand the importance of following directions.  Cooking activities often are used as a correlation with the weekly theme and the lesson is used to make abstract concepts more concrete.  For example, a lesson on shapes might be followed up with students making cookies of various shapes or a lesson on color might involve student making Jell-o or pudding of that color.  A more abstract example might find students studying pets making edible dog bones as they follow a recipe that might include graham crackers, honey, and dry milk.  Following a recipe gives students further opportunities to use math and practice measurement skills.  In addition, another recipe might find students covering a rice cake with peanut butter and counting a specified number of chocolate chips to make a happy face while learning about emotions.  A science lesson on insects might result in a cooking activity which finds students spreading cream cheese on celery to make ants on logs or flowers could be replicated in the form of flower cookies.

47_1Another aspect of the Mathematical Thinking & Science Discovery Component is the use of animals throughout the school.  The primary use of the animals is for the purpose of observation and language development in younger children.  Upon entry to the school, students are welcomed with a large assortment of animals to observe.  Each class is scheduled for 10-15 minutes each day for their animal observation.  This is usually during some sort of transition time, perhaps on the way back from the bathroom, or to pass idle time while children are waiting after using the water fountain.

Students can observe the 150 gallon tank in the school main entry area as they count the number of turtles or fish, sort them by size using words such as small, medium, or large (sometimes mommy and baby turtles), classify them by color or other attributes.  They might make observations as to the texture and color of the snake skin and compare it to the bearded dragon or the many frogs.  Perhaps they might use words such as smooth, rough, or bumpy when comparing the geckos.  Other animals such as birds can be described by the type of feathers or coloring they have or how they fly while the snake slithers.

Many of the students in the school count the number of animals in various cages each time they walk by the animals.

Students enjoy greeting the ferrets in the office and watching how they use their feet to climb the sides of their cage.

Students also discuss the salt water creatures in the school salt water tank.  Many enjoy seeing Nemo & his dad Marlon (Clownfish) and watching the spikes and tentacles of the sea urchin as it hugs the glass of the tank.  Animals are also present in the classrooms and are used for many purposes.

Children who are having trouble dealing with their emotions might be sent to watch the fish tank or count its fish as they calm down.  Others might prefer to hug the class rabbit or listen to the chirping of the many class birds.

Further lessons are learned when class pets such as finches lay eggs and feed their young in a nest before flying out on their own.  All mammals are given annual medical exams by a vet as well as vaccines as needed.  Reptiles are checked weekly by a reptile specialist to be sure they are healthy and free from disease.  Animals are kept in closed cages and are only removed from cages by the director and teachers.  All children are closely supervised around the animals.

47_2Perhaps the cornerstone of the Mathematical Thinking & Science Discovery component of Hands On Minds On is the use of the school garden in the teaching and integration of math and science.   Although all children ages 2-5 participate in garden activities, the students in the Pre-K program do extensive activities in the garden.

In mid-November, every child in the preschool age program will plant their own Cherry Tomato plant.  Once the tomatoes are in the ground, it is marked with a stick with the child’s name so that they can follow the growth of the plant.  Other plants such as cabbage, peppers, eggplant, broccoli, cauliflower, collard greens, beans, and flowers are also planted.  Several days each week following their playground time, students take time to water their plant and observe any changes.

In March, each preschool age student is given a field study book (see appendix E).  Over the next several weeks, the student meets with the teacher in small groups to complete field studies.  Each field study consists of one question.   With pencil and post it notes in hand, the student heads into the garden to answer the question.  Upon returning to the class, the data collected is added to the child’s field study booklet.

In addition to cooking and gardening, students take part in periodic science experiments that allow them to follow the scientific method for problem solving.

Some of the field study activities are as follows:

- Count the number of yellow flowers on your tomato plant.
- Those yellow flowers will fall off and tomatoes will appear.

- Count the number of green tomatoes on your plant.

- Count the number of red tomatoes on your plant.

- Use Popsicle sticks to measure the height of your plant.

- Count the number of green peppers in the garden.

- Count the number of red peppers in the garden.

- Count how many heads of cabbage are in the bed.

- Use paper clips to measure across the cabbage.

- Count the number of broccoli in each bed.

- Count the number of cauliflower in each bed.

- Measure the length of a bean pod.

- Measure the distance around the purple eggplant.

- Draw the vegetables in the garden.

- Use snapping cubes to measure the height of the cabbage plant.

- Pick the tomatoes on your plant and put them in a cup.

- Count the number of red tomatoes in your cup.

- Place all the tomatoes in your cup on one side of the balance scale.
- Use blocks to balance the scale. How many snapping cubes did it take to
balance the scale?

In addition to teaching math and science using real world examples in the garden, the school also partners with Farm Share (, a food recovery program, to provide families with free vegetables and fruit on a weekly basis.

Every Tuesday, surplus produce is delivered to the school and set outside the front door where parents and children are invited to bag and take home the free food each week.  Through teaching gardening and by partnering with Farm Share, many parents have reported that their children are eating more vegetables as they are apt to try what they are able to grow, pick, and pack to take home, thus improving nutritional awareness and healthy eating.

Hands On Minds On also teaches the importance of healthy eating and healthy habits.  The program includes participation in an Oral Health Program.  Starting at age 2, children participate in daily tooth brushing following lunch.  Each child is given a TOOTHETTE disposable toothbrush.  This is a pink sponge at the end of a cardboard stick.  Children are given small mirrors and are taught to clean their teeth.

The dentifrice in the sponge removes debris from teeth leaving a light mint taste in the child’s mouth.  Many parents have reported that their children are reminding them to brush after eating dinner as a result of brushing their teeth after lunch.

Hands On Minds On Mathematical Thinking & Science Discovery
VPK Standards Correlation

I.  Physical Health

A. Physical Health

A.1. Shows characteristics of good health to facilitate learning

A.2. Demonstrates visual ability to facilitate learning

A.3. Exhibits auditory ability to facilitate learning

A.4. Performs oral hygiene routines

A.5. Shows familiarity with the role of a primary health care provider

B. Knowledge of Wellness

B.1. Shows that basic physical needs are met

B.2. Follows basic health and safety rules

B.3. Participates in physical fitness activities

B.4. Makes wise food choices

B.5. Performs some self-care tasks independently

VI. Cognitive Development and General Knowledge

A. Mathematical Thinking

A.a. Mathematical Processes

A.a.1. Begins to use simple strategies to solve mathematical problems

A.b. Patterns, Relationships, and Functions

A.b.1. Sorts objects into subgroups that vary by one or two attributes

A.b.2. Recognizes simple patterns and duplicates them

A.b.3. Collects and analyzes information (data analysis)

A.c. Number and Operations

A.c.1. Shows beginning understanding of number and quantity

A.d. Geometry and Spatial Relations

A.d.1. Begins to recognize and describe the attributes of shapes

A.d.2. Shows understanding of and uses several positional words

A.e. Measurement

A.e.1. Orders, compares, and describes objects according to a single attribute

A.e.2. Participates in measuring activities

B. Scientific Thinking

B.a. Inquiry

B.a.1. Asks questions and uses senses to observe and explore materials and natural phenomena

B.a.2. Uses simple tools and equipment for investigation

B.a.3. Makes comparisons among objects