21 Jan Make It Count: Teaching Math to Young Learners
Early Childhood Learning Plays a Great Role in Student’s Future Math Abilities
When we think of toddlers and preschoolers, the word “curious” often comes to mind. Young learners, in particular, naturally want to explore and understand the world around them. As parents and educators, these traits can and should be capitalized upon to provide early childhood experiences rich in mathematical concepts. In fact, research has proven that future math success is often dependent on a child’s early childhood learning experiences and is most beneficial when children are exposed both at school and home.
Children who are encouraged and supported in their math exploration develop increased confidence in their math capabilities and in their ability to learn math concepts. This, in turn, fosters further creativity and imagination. While parents and educators should help children to understand and see mathematical concepts and connections, it is equally as important to allow opportunities for young learners to draw their own conclusions. Furthermore, early childhood learning should allow for supportive environments in which children are comfortable explaining how they arrived at particular conclusions. This will help youngsters develop math language skills and begin to see how such concepts relate to the world.
In particular, when considering early childhood learning experiences in math, parents and teachers should aim to provide opportunities in each of the following areas:
- Number Sense
Number Sense refers to an understanding that a particular number can be represented by the same number of objects, or the concept of greater than/less than, etc.
Geometry involves patterns, shapes, etc.
Measurement refers to sizes, measurements, or distances between two places or objects – standard or nonstandard units of measurement may be used.
Language incorporates math terms such as “in all”, “more than”, “how many”, etc.
- Spatial Concepts
This involves an understanding of where things are in space, or that an object or person is behind or in front of something.
It is especially important to note that incorporating such early childhood learning experiences into everyday life can be both simple and fun. Check out the following list of possible ways you can talk teach your child about math and help them make important discoveries about how math is used everyday:
- Count objects as you go about your day – for example, how many grapes are on a plate, how many books you’re checking out from the library, how many oranges you’re buying, etc.
- Use simple addition and subtraction – discuss how many crackers or blocks a child has and how many they’ll have if you give them two more, take away one, etc.
- Notice patterns and shapes when you’re out running errands – prompt a discussion about how the colors of cars make a pattern or how many sides there are on the rectangular sign you pass.
- Encourage children to create a pattern with toys or other household items.
- Use a calendar to count down days until a birthday or upcoming trip.
- Weigh things at the grocery store
- Discuss which object is heavier or lighter as you clean up
- Ask questions such as “Do you have more race cars or construction vehicles?”, “Which race car went the furthest”, etc.
- Ask kids to explain their reasoning and prompt use of terms such as “more than”, “less than”, etc. when they’re asking for more of something.
- Discuss where a stuffed animal is (i.e. the bear is behind the elephant or in front of the dollhouse, etc.) in their room.
It’s especially important to keep in mind that, when teaching math to early learners, lessons and discussions should meet children on their level. Furthermore, some children will simply understand particular concepts better than others – this is completely normal and can be used to guide future instruction and discussions. Perhaps most importantly, however, whether you’re at school or at home, make math fun for children – you’ll be amazed at how far these early experiences will go in helping your child to become more competent and confident in math!