Many parents give their children a head start in literacy by reading to them as toddlers, but mathematics is often reduced to just getting the children to count. Mathematics is far more than numbers and counting. Mathematical concepts can also be instilled in a pre-schooler and it doesn’t have to be boring; in fact it can be fun.
Here are three areas where parents and early education teachers can give young children a head start in mathematics:
Find math interactions in daily routines – Everyday activities can be chock-full of math. We use math all the time and don’t even know it or aren’t aware of it. We can help children develop simple math concepts by engaging them in activities that use math skills. This can be as simple as having your child find a matching pair of socks, shoes or even objects around the home. Maybe even have them help you sort out the laundry or organise silverware in a drawer. This will teach them sorting and comparing concepts.
Lunch or snack time can be a time of comparing who has the most crackers, carrot sticks, etc. Or juice in a glass can be observed as fractions, one-quarter full, one-half-full or three quarters-full. There are lots of things that we do mathematically and as you go through your daily routine, you will discover more and more things that you can bring to the attention of your child and engage the youngster which will develop their mathematical skills at an early age.
Playing with Math – Playtime affords plenty of opportunities for a child to engage and explore mathematical concepts. For example, shapes can be made with Play-Do, Popsicle sticks or other simple building materials. Story books or songs that include numbers are also excellent and fun ways to get a child to think mathematically. Songs such as Five Little Monkeys might be more educational than we think.
Math is more than Counting Numbers – Spatial reasoning and awareness are also valuable in mathematics. Although much of this is acquired as a child has the freedom to explore his surroundings, it can also be an object of childhood activities. Spatial awareness has to do with understanding objects as they relate to oneself in a given space.
When we discuss or give directives to children about an object’s location we are making them aware of objects in relationship to their space. For example, the ball is in the cupboard, the book is on the bookshelf, the toys are under the table are all examples of objects in location. Fun activities can include a game of hide-and-seek, the game Simon Says and other children’s games that include objects and movement in relationship to the child’s location.
These are only a few ideas of how you can give your child a head start in mathematics. As you look around, many other ideas, games and activities will come to your mind on how you can engage pre-schoolers so that their mathematical skills are developed. In the long-term, they will be better math students because math was taught to them in an enjoyable way.