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Tutu’s Corner

Community Contributed

Mathematical thinking: same or different

By Keshia Adolpho, Tutu and Me Travelling Preschool

The concepts of “same and different” are two stepping stones to higher mathematical thinking. In fact, these two concepts are important to all areas of learning: reading, science, social studies, the arts, and physical and social development. For example, in reading, a child would have to know the concepts of “same and different,” to know that “cat and cat” are the same words, and “cat and bird” are different words.

Children appear to learn the concept of “sameness” more readily than the concept of “difference.” For this reason, “sameness” seems to be a good concept to begin with. Things that are the same are all around us: in the kitchen there are plates, eating utensils, etc. In the supermarket there are cans of soup, cartons of milk, etc.

At Tutu and Me Traveling Preschool, there are many opportunities to explore similarities and differences with young children. For example, we allow children to readily investigate similarities and differences in physical characteristics. An example of this is in the block area which provides blocks that are the same, and blocks that are different.

Try This:

  • Start by using the words “same” and “different” in everyday conversation. For example, while looking in the mirror, you could say “Look, you have the same color brown eyes as Tutu, but our hair is a different color. Your hair is black and Tutu’s hair is white.”
  • Get two copies of the same grocery insert from the newspaper, one for you and one for your keiki. Find a picture inside and ask keiki to find the same picture in his/her copy. Next, ask keiki to choose a picture, then it’s your turn to find the same picture in your copy.
  • Use the word “match” in everyday conversation. Teach children that “match” is a word that means “the same as.” Example: “These socks match. You can tell because they are the same color, the same shape and the same size.”

Remember: Understanding the concepts of “sameness” (similar) and “differences” (different) greatly enhance young children’s abilities and skills in mathematics as well as all other areas of learning.


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