The past few weeks I have been diving into the Science & Engineering Practices and how to use them in a Kindergarten classroom. Today is no different, so let’s dive into using Mathematics in science as well as computational thinking!
If you’ve just found this post, please know that there are 2 preceding this that are worth the read to see the SEP big picture.
There are 8 total SEPs that are used across grade levels. Today we are focusing on using mathematics and computational thinking in a Kindergarten classroom.
How should I be using mathematics in science lessons?
This is very easy to do! When you run different investigations and experiments in science, math plays a key role. Scientists and engineers collect data from their experiments and designs. Keeping track of this information is crucial when it comes time to recreate their findings and share with others.
In Kindergarten, you are going to use measurement, graphing, counting, and identifying geometry as your main way of using math.
The common core state standards have students practicing with non standard measurements (blocks, paperclips, shoe sizes, gingerbread men, etc.) and also with standard units of measurement like a ruler or a stopwatch for time.
Your students are going to want to explore and test out their measuring skills. If you need help with that, I have a resource on TPT that practices measuring for weight, length, and capacity. It provides students opportunities to learn these skills and apply them in real life.
In an investigation, you can guide students to measure length by giving rulers, string, and also preset markers like pieces of tape on the ground. Remind students to keep track of their measurements in a table or on a chart (to be displayed in your room!)
A student measures scissors with 2 non standard units: peppermint candies and gingerbread men.
The student will notice that they need more peppermints to measure the scissor than gingerbread men. This is because the mints are smaller.
This was an investigative math activity that students had to find school supplies around the room to measure using their non standard rulers.
Having students sort objects into different groups and display them on a graph is an important CCSS math skill. This also can be used in science. It would be great to take the measurements from a lab activity and use them to create a graph.
For example: if you are investigating how far a ball travels off of a ramp, you can record the data in a graph. When you are at the beginning of the year, I would do a classroom graph that students help fill in together. By the end of the year, with experience, students could do an investigation and record their own data like a real scientist. But of course you know your students the best and can make that decision for yourself.
There are so many different ways to practice graphing before your students NEED it in an investigation. Just like with other skills, graphing can be hard for students who with struggle with fine motor skills, visual tracking, or any number of other things.
To help these students, use graphs during morning meetings or question of the day where they have to sort themselves into a group.
For a twist you can also get my free Halloween and Christmas graphs on TPT. These provide a bit of fun during the holiday seasons and practice important graphing skills.
During the course of investigations, students will have to keep track of items being used. If an experiment calls for 7 pipe cleaners, they will need to count exactly to recreate the lab activity. This also comes into play when students are designing an engineering project. Keeping track of what is being used is an important skill that scientists and engineers use everyday in their jobs.
This is such a fun standard to work on in Kindergarten. I love watching my students make connections to how many they see and can count up to.
This skill lends itself well to science because you are working on observing and recording data (or objects being used).
It’s also the perfect opportunity to build in some hands on activities. Your students should be moving, scooting, and pushing around objects (hello forces and motion interdisciplinary core ideas!)
Identifying shapes, both 2D and 3D will be especially important for engineering design projects. Students should be creating blueprints for their designs prior to laying hands on materials to build. This means that they can sketch out their ideas on paper. Without knowledge of shapes or how 3D shapes move, their designs can be flawed from the beginning.
Building this skills with your students is crucial for their design projects to be successful.
If you need to beef up your shapes unit during math instruction or want something additional to use during STEM time, you should check out my Shapes unit on TPT to help you with that.
Not only do students practice 2D/3D shapes, but also positional words which will be extremely helpful in working collaboratively!
What does computational thinking look like in Kindergarten?
Computational thinking is broken down into 4 main parts: decomposition, pattern recognition, abstraction, and algorithms. That seems scary for 5 year olds to deal with but it doesn’t have to be.
I L-O-V-E coding robots in Kindergarten. My students enjoy using them too! I recommend (no affiliation but I firmly stand by them) the Learning Resources Robot Mouse. It’s a very basic model and can be easily mastered by your students! Check them in action with the video.
If you don’t have access to coding robots you can also recreate this through tiles with directional cards. For example, you can pull cards out of a pile with different facing arrows on them. Students can walk on top of squares (or tiles if available) to code themselves through a sequence.