Making math easy as “Pi” for students with hearing loss

Pi Day is celebrated on March 14th around the world. Pi (Greek letter “π”) is the symbol used in mathematics to represent a constant — the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter — which is approximately 3.14159.

Pi Day reminds educators of the importance of practicing math skills throughout the day. When we think about math, there are several categories to which we want to expose students: number sense/operations, patterns and relationships, geometry and spatial sense, measurement and exploring data. Even early childhood and kindergarten students can tackle these topics. These are also skills that you are likely already addressing without even realizing it.

Additionally, for students who are deaf and hard of hearing, developing the language and vocabulary of math at an early age is crucial to success throughout their education.

Here are some activities that are easy to incorporate, are fun and motivating for students and include a wide variety of language and math skills to practice.

Number sense/operations

  • Count during play:
  • Count how many blocks are in a tower. “Your tower is 5 blocks tall.”
  • Compare 2 towers. “Mine is 4 blocks tall and yours is 3 blocks tall” or “Mine is taller than yours.”
  • Count animals during play. “How many pigs are on the farm?”  “I see 2 birds.” “There are 7 bugs.”
  • Make snack time count:
  • Ask students how many they would like of the snack item. “How many grapes do you want?”  “I want 5 grapes.” “Let’s count to 5- 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 grapes.”
  • Compare snack amounts. “You had 3 cookies; you ate 1 cookie. How many cookies are left?”
  • Use songs and books:
  • 5 Little Monkeys
  • Ten Apples Up on Top
  • 1-2-3, GO!, 3-2-1, STOP! 
  • Incorporate movement: “Let’s do 5 jumping jacks.”  “Touch your nose 4 times.”

Pattern and relationships

  • Encourage sorting: use any thematic manipulative and sort by 1 or more attributes (color, size, shape, kind, etc.).
  • Create patterns: use connecting blocks, thematic manipulatives, snacks, etc.
  • Singsongs and read books: Predictable books and songs such as Brown Bear Brown Bear, The Button Box and Old McDonald are favorites because students can pick up the patterns and “help” tell the story.

Geometry and spatial sense

  • Plan matching activities: match shapes, colors, animals, vehicles and more
  • Include preposition practice: on, in, under, behind, next to, over
  • Play games that involve shapes:
  • Shape Bingo
  • Blocks: stacking or recreating shapes (make a square with 4 blocks, make a fence around an animal, design a road throughout a town)
  • Engage in sensory activities: trace shapes, make shapes with your body

Measurement and exploring data

  • Make comparisons: Talk about items that are taller/shorter, bigger/smaller, faster/slower, hotter/colder, heavier/lighter.
  • Discuss sensory information: weight and texture.
  • Play “fill and dump” – Fill containers with various items (e.g., water, small blocks, dry beans, etc.) and then dump them out– a messy activity but important in math development!
  • Measure items: use blocks, links, paper clips, anything to that can be used as a unit of measurement.
  • Take surveys: ask friends questions such as, “What is your favorite cookie?” or “What is your favorite color?” Then report back, “4 people like chocolate chip cookies” or “3 people like purple.”
  • Incorporate the 5 senses: “How does it taste? smell? feel? sound? look?”

After reading these lists, you might find you are already doing some of these activities during language or centers time. Excitingly, you are also doing math! Math is an important skill to continue to practice, and it can also be easily incorporated throughout the day.


Abby Zoia 200x300

Abby Zoia is currently serving as the Coordinator of the Emerson Center for Professional Development at Central Institute for the Deaf (CID). Ms. Zoia holds a Missouri teacher of the deaf certificate (K-12), professional certification from the national Council of Education of the Deaf, as well as Listening and Spoken Language Specialist certification from the AG Bell Academy.  She has served as a teacher at various age-levels for more than 16 years and was recently the Coordinator of the Virginia J. Browning Primary School at CID.  In addition to presenting at numerous CID workshops, Ms. Zoia has presented at the international conventions of the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. 

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