Sorting things into categories is one of the ways mathematics enters into our daily life. At “clean-up time,” children discover that forks and knives belong in one place, plates belong somewhere else, and glasses and cups belong in yet another place. As children and adults talk about what makes one set of things go together and why other things belong elsewhere, they are doing important talking… and thinking. Talking about attributes and qualities such as size, shape, texture, and color encourages children to look more closely at things. This also is a great way to develop children’s vocabulary.
Sort It Out! by Barbara Mariconda provides a great model for incorporating math into everyday activities. This brightly colored picture book shows Packy the Pack Rat trying to obey his mother’s order to put away all the treasures he has collected.
The Button Box by Margarette S. Reid could launch another exploration of a collection many teachers may have in their sewing closet. In this story, a little boy finds all kinds of stories in his grandmother’s collection of buttons. Grandma’s Button Box by Linda Williams Aber uses another approach. In this book, Kelly and her cousins help Grandma sort the buttons that spilled when Kelly accidentally knocked over the box.
All of these provide great entry points for exploring sets and sorting in everyday life. Math is, in fact, all around us.