We often fail to appreciate how much of young children’s lives—and above all their play—involves thinking about and working with sets of things. A set is any collection that is grouped together in some meaningful way. In fact, in order to learn the names of things, children must create sets in their mind, like the set of “dogs” that includes their own dog, the neighbor’s dog, and that dog that barks at us on the way to preschool. For their definition of “dog” to be like that of the adults around them, they must group these three animals together mentally to create a meaningful collection. Sets, then, are basic to children’s thinking and learning. They are also basic to our number system.
© Erikson Institute’s Early Math Collaborative. Reprinted from Big Ideas of Early Mathematics: What Teachers of Young Children Need to Know (2014), Pearson Education.
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