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The Weight of Things

Guest blogger: Diann Gano, M.Ed.

“Look, I can pick up six blocks at once! It’s not even heavy!”

It’s pickup time in the block center and now we have a challenge on our hands. I recognize that this has taken on a learning moment that we can’t rush but we can extend. Showing off our muscles and strength is another perfect opportunity to meet a math measurement standard through play. Children are always fascinated by how big or how heavy things are.
Jonathan had thrown the challenge down and here was our chance to use math vocabulary, collect data, make predictions and practice our geometric shapes. Suddenly we’re counting, adding, sorting, grouping.
Children can use measurement language to relate to their play. They compare who’s taller, argue over who has more apples, who’s the fastest and who has the longest train. In this moment we can learn to measure size, weight and capacity. Students need to talk about and talk through their mathematical concepts. They need to talk their theories out-loud with each other and their teachers.

As teachers we can model appropriate math terminology and encourage our students to use mathematical vocabulary. Children used the blocks to build towers that are smaller than their body, larger than their body, and the same size as their body. They also built two towers of the same size.

“I wonder which is heavier, the stack of six blocks or two of these long blocks? Are they the same? They are? We can say the blocks are equal in weight.” Using real objects help children understand measurement concepts.

Here I go once more, rambling about the benefits we reap in the block area, during pickup time. If it wasn’t so innocent and deep, I would swear they were manipulating me. Give the gift of time. Toss out the clock, and let the investigations continue. Let the play buzz fill their little brain with a strong math foundation through play.



Before naps, I will bring out the book by Steve Jenkins, Biggest, Strongest, Fastest. This book describes animals that are the heaviest, strongest and tallest. It introduces the concept that determining which animal is the biggest depends on how you define big. We also love the math books, How Many and Which One Doesn’t Belong by Christopher Danielson. These great books help my group understand there are many different measurable attributes to consider when we say something is bigger or heavier.

Diann Gano, M.Ed.

Diann Gano—who opened her family child care program, Under the Gingko Tree in 1986—has long believed that "the earth gives us what we need to learn" and that nature is "the perfect environment for little brains to grow and learn in every day." While conducting research for her master’s thesis on outdoor learning in early childhood settings, she learned about the Nature Explore Classroom Certification Program, which recognizes schools and other organizations that have made a commitment to providing outdoor classrooms and comprehensive programming to help children use the natural world as an integral part of learning. She enrolled in the Nature Explore Classroom certification program after completing her master’s degree in 2010, and Under the Ginkgo Tree was certified as a Nature Explore Certified Outdoor Classroom Program in 2011. A member of the Erikson Family Child Care Portal Project Advisory Board, Gano has also participated in the Erikson Institute’s Early Childhood Leadership Summit and served as a webinar panelist for Town Square Illinois, an online resource and professional development tool for home-based providers. She has presented at the local, state and national levels on topics such as indoor and outdoor learning environments, the importance of loose parts in early math education and the impact of immersion in the natural world on brain development in young children. In 2016, Gano was honored as a recipient of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Child Care Innovator Award for creating a school environment that inspires children to become more active and engaged learners. In May 2019, she received the prestigious Terri Lynn Lokoff/Children’s Tylenol National Teacher Award, which honors 50 outstanding early child care professionals across the nation each year for making a lasting difference in the lives of the children they serve and setting them on a path to success in school and in life. She received her BS in liberal arts from Western Illinois University and her MEd in education from St. Mary of the Woods College in Indiana.

Read more posts by Diann Gano, M.Ed.

19 Replies to “The Weight of Things”

    1. Great lesson with lots of math vocabulary and communication p loo us all the fun with this lesson and activity.

  1. I think we may have the same class of children. Now when its clean up time for blocks I have started about ten minutes earlier than I should. The math vocabulary has been incorporated when we sit with the children and they are building as well. It truly is a great time to use math language.

    1. I like the idea of leaving more time for cleaning so you can bring up math ideas while putting away the block!

  2. What a wonderful journey for the children. I loved the quote…”Give the gift of time. Toss out the clock and let the investigations continue!” Thank you for the literature component too.

  3. Math principles can be used throughout the day at school including outside time. Math activities are a favorite past time in my class.

  4. I have found that clean up opens up a lot of math, such as sorting blocks in the right container or by the right size, or matching the blocks to the correct picture on the shelves, so much can be learned during clean up time that a lot of us fail to realize.

  5. Math vocabulary is extended when children play in the blocks area by comparing and solving problems, asking questions making challenge and by describing process.

  6. I think that this is an awesome way at incorporating math vocabulary into play time. This will keep the children engaged in what they are doing, and they will start to think about the vocab.

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