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Now Pi Day March 14 (3.14) has become International Day of Mathematics as well. Let's celebrate with math books and activities!

Pi is based on the relationship (ratio) between circumference of a circle and its diameter. If you're a bit rusty in math, the diameter is a straight line segment that passes through the center of a circle and has endpoints on the circle. The circumference is the distance around the outside of the circle.

π = C/d

It is a fascinating number because it is so useful, but it is also irrational. That means it is an infinite, non-repeating decimal.

Pi Day activities can run the gamut from serious to seriously lighthearted.

You might want to check out

One great way to celebrate Pi Day is to read a book about math. See our growing list of children's math books for Pi Day and every day at Science Books for Kids and our list of Women Who Count, biographies of women mathematicians (also useful for Women's History Month).

list-math-books-for-pi-day

Visit our Pi Day Pinterest Board for even more ideas.

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Back with more STEM story time activities.  This week we covered math skills.

Math isn't just numbers and counting. The Erikson Institute Early Math Collaborative has a ton of ideas about sets and sorting, matching, patterns and sequencing, graphing, etc. Many have great book suggestions to get you started and be sure to look for the home activity cards to download.

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Our main book this week was the rollicking fun classic Ten Apples Up On Top! by Theo. LeSieg and illustrated by Roy McKie.

It was well received. I made a story board with contact paper (see instructions below) and cut out foam apples to count.

The red foam circles started out on the tree and we moved them over as we read the book. The yellow ones are because the kids added extra "apples" later.

Although I put a hold on it at the library awhile ago, I didn't get my other choice, The Water Hole by Graeme Base, until after the class.

After I opened it up, I realized why the patron who had it previously didn't want to to give it up. It is gorgeous!

Given that it was initially published in Australia, I thought this reading of the story was appropriate. It is sad when the water hole disappears.

I'm considering buying a copy so I have it on hand next time.

STEM Activity Station 1. Window Shape Sorting

Original idea seen at Happy Tot Shelf.

Gather for adult to make ahead of time:

  • Clear Con-tact paper (found at hardware store)
  • Foam sheets (art/craft supply)
  • Foam shapes - best if don't have sticky back - for kids to sort
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Pencil
  • Round shape to trace around such as layer cake pan (optional)

Make square, rectangle, triangle and circle frames out of foam sheets (I used a layer cake pan as a template for the circle.) Lay the frames on the contact paper (with backing still in place) and trace around them. Cut out the contact paper, peel the waxy backing off, and press the contact paper to the frame. Retain the waxy backing and press onto the sticky side again if you are going to transport the frames (keeps them from sticking together).

Notice the bowl of foam shapes to sort in the chair.

Comments:

The window sorting activity may have been better for younger kids. No one in my group was interested in sorting the shapes. It wasn't a complete bust, however, because after learning the technique I made the story board for the book (see above) and that was a huge hit.

Also, the clear contact paper is an awesome craft ingredient because it can cling to something and then be removed again. Will be using it again.

STEM Activity Station 2. Measuring Volume

Gather:

  • Bin
  • Filling material such as rice or beans. (I used different colored lentils) - check about allergies first.
  • Measuring spoons and cups
  • Geosolid shapes  (optional, but very popular)

These are geosolids (Amazon Affiliate Link).

 

No need for instructions here. Scoop up the materials, fill a shape and then transfer the filling to another shape.

Comments:

This was the most popular station by far. Saw a lot of exploring and creativity.

Next time:  Have pictures of the shapes labelled with the correct name and have the children match them. For example, have a picture of a cone and have them look for the matching cone geosolid shape. They seemed ready to learn the names.

STEM Activity Station 3:  Busy Bugs

The Environmental Education Center supplied this Busy Bug sorting and counting kit. Also comes with pattern cards.

Kids probably could have spent hours with these if they hadn't spent so much time at the measuring bin.

STEM Activity Station 4:  Feed the Squirrels- Counting

 

Gather:

  • Acorns - at least 10
  • Container for acorns (optional)
  • Squirrel counting printable
  • 4 Plastic cups
  • Tape
  • Scissors
  • Instructions (optional)

Adults:  print out the counting printable. Cut out the squrrels and tape each one to a cup.

Have the children count the number of acorns  indicated on the squirrel's tail into the cup.

STEM Activity Station 5:  Sorting Natural Objects

First read the comments below. Second, ask about food allergies if you decide to use nuts.

Gather:

  • Natural objects such as rocks, different kinds of pine cones, or seeds/nuts
  • Bowls or egg cartons to sort into

Because of the squirrel counting activity, I offered different kinds of nuts in shells.

Comments:

Using nuts in shells was not a good idea because the children wanted to crack them open and see what was inside. When we cracked one open, they wanted to eat the contents. It would probably have been just fine at home, but under preschool conditions it was not ideal.

Conclusion:  I'm bringing rocks to sort next time.

We also sorted colored pom poms by color.


Next time I will offer less sorting activities.

STEM Activity Station 6:  Measuring with Inchworms

(Amazon Affiliate Link)

Cut fuzzy stems (chenille) to different lengths and measure with "inchworms." (Somehow I didn't get a photograph of this station.) The children seemed to like both measuring activities.

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I also offered two types of number/counting puzzles and a sequencing activity.

This is really a quick overview. please let me know if you have any specific questions or suggestions.

 

Visit our Pinterest Board for more preschool math ideas.

Today we have some more of the fantastic nonfiction children’s books that have been nominated for 2018 Cybils awards.

The Girl With a Mind for Math: The Story of Raye Montague (Amazing Scientists) by Julia Finley Mosca and illustrated by Daniel Rieley tells the story of a woman who was denied the opportunity to become an engineer and went ahead and became one anyway.

Raye Montague wanted to design ships, but the college she went to wouldn't allow women into the engineering program. After studying business instead, she landed a job typing for the Navy. Working hard, she learned about computers and devised a program that could design a ship in much less time. Eventually she became an official engineer and took over as head of the department where she had started as a typist.

The rhyming text tells Montague's life story simply and effectively. Eight pages of back matter fill in many details and reveal Montague's "can do" philosophy in the face of a multitude of barriers. The back matter also includes a timeline with historical photographs and illustrations.

The Girl With a Mind for Math is a picture book biography of an upbeat and inspiring woman. Pick up a copy for reluctant readers and they might just catch Raye Montague's infectious spunk.

Age Range: 5 - 10 years
Publisher: The Innovation Press (September 4, 2018)
ISBN-10: 1943147426
ISBN-13: 978-1943147427

Because of the recent popular movie, you might be more familiar with the women featured in Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly and illustrated by Laura Freeman.

Author Margot Lee Shetterly wrote the original bestselling book, Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race, for adults. In this picture book for children, she gives a brief summary of each woman's career, interweaving their stories and at the same time emphasizing their similar struggles as human computers for NASA.

"Dorthy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden were good at math. Really good."

In the back Shetterly reveals that that she met many of the women when she was growing up in Hampton, Virginia.

Hidden Figures is a good introduction to these amazing women. It would be a great book to have on hand for both Black History Month and Women's History Month.

Age Range: 4 - 8 years
Publisher: HarperCollins (January 16, 2018)
ISBN-10: 0062742469
ISBN-13: 978-0062742469

Want to read more? Check our growing list of children's books about women mathematicians at Science Books for Kids.

Disclosure: These books were provided by our local library. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.