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A Little Village Laundromat Brings Math Out Of Classrooms And Into Everyday Life For Young Learners

The early learning installations at Linares Launderia were created to help kids understand math is all around them.

Kids can use their counting skills in a play area at Linares Launderia, 3844 W. 26th St.
Playful Learning
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LITTLE VILLAGE — Instead of staring at a phone, kids at a laundromat in Little Village are getting a math lesson while their parents wash and fold.

Graphics on washers and dryers offer colorful counting activities, and detergent lids are used to in a pattern game. The display, a Playful Learning installation, is for early learners is up and running at Linares Launderia, 3844 W. 26th St. 

The installation is a collaborative effort to transform “everyday public places into learning opportunities for caregivers and their children,” said Maya Portillo, Education Program associate at the Robert R. McCormick Foundation. 

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The Chicago Children’s Museum and the McCormick Foundation teamed up more than a year ago to design and implement the display with community partners Enlace, the Little Village Community Foundation and Metropolitan Family Services. McCormick is one of six key funders of the initiative.

The design adopts national research on early childhood education from Temple University researcher Kathy Hirsh-Pasek. The Little Village installation debuted June 26.

In creating the installations, they wanted to “meet families and children where they are to really work on early learning skills that are the foundation for children before they enter the classroom,” Portillo said.

Community stakeholders identified math as a skill they wanted the first round of displays to focus on for early learning opportunities, Portillo said.  

“Math is all around us,” she said.

Credit: Playful Learning
There are counting displays on washers and dryers at Linares Launderia, 3844 W. 26th St.

The Little Village laundromat display is one of three Playful Learning installations focused on early learning math skills. Playful Learning has a Boulevard Math installation in Douglass Park between Central Park and St. Louis avenues in North Lawndale and a Community Garden Math display in suburban Aurora. 

More Playful Learning installations are near the Little Village Arch at 26th Street and Albany; at Manuel Perez Jr. Plaza, 4345 W. 26th St.; at the Central Park Pink Line; and across from MLK Legacy Apartments at 1550 S. Hamlin Ave.

Amy Spar, vice president of strategic initiatives at the Chicago Children’s Museum, said the installations help children “see their world through a math lens and learn to recognize that math is an essential part of everyday life.”

The displays are meant to supplement early learning and childhood education already in existence in the neighborhoods, schools, head start programs and extending learning opportunities outside the classroom, Portillo said.

“We want to mathematize” the public spaces where family and caregivers are visiting, Portillo said. 

Echoing Portillo, Valerie Coffman, Enlace’s adult and early childhood education pipeline specialist, said the installation was “truly meeting Little Village families and children where they are.”

“We are hopeful and encouraged by the learning opportunities this space will create for families in Little Village,” Coffman said.

Credit: Playful Learning
Pattern play is part of an installation at Linares Launderia, 3844 W. 26th St.
Credit: Playful Learning
The math installation for early learners at Linares Launderia includes counting displays on washers and dryers.

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