Math is typically thought of as the basics: addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Most practical math skills are fairly intuitive to adults to the point where we aren’t thinking about which type of math we’re using in any one scenario. Despite that many people think of just math basics being used in everyday adult life, sometimes we are using more complex math like trigonometry, geometry or algebra. Even more fascinating? We have the ability to start learning them from a very young age – a lot younger than you might think. Here are math fundamentals you can start teaching your child from a very young age to help them feel more comfortable with numbers and math concepts as they head in early elementary school math.
Babies are cute little gurgling, bright eyed hand and feet chewers that rely on adults to raise them. However, they also understand some core concepts of time, specifically when it comes to routine. They seek and thrive in life with patterns and regular sleeping, waking, feeding and playing/social patterns help set a good foundation for math essentials. As babies start to get older, finding pattern in placing toys by color or size, stacking blocks or rings, or fitting objects into other objects are all uses of math at an early age.
Toddlers can be known for their lack of reasoning and irrational wants and thoughts, but they can have a blast with math! Concepts such as size (small and big) and numbers (one, two, three…) are great things to start at this age. Placing toys in certain ways to find pattern and kinetic learning, like moving sand or water from one container to another are great introductions to pattern recognition and volume. Color, shape and size are all good concepts to practice with toddlers.
It’s also a great time to introduce counting. Counting before jumping in puddles, counting in songs, counting when taking steps, counting fingers and toes… these are all great ways to simply introduce the idea of number association. Counting to 10 is often very graspable for toddlers when it’s applicable to their world.
Kids who are ages 3 – 5 start to generally become more aware of numbers outside of when it’s just applicable to counting something. They start pretending to tell time and many of them recognize numbers (and letters) when they are written on paper. By age 5, which is when many children start kindergarten, some kids will start writing numbers. Sometimes they’re backwards – don’t worry! – that’s normal for children who are just starting to write.
This age is a great age to visit a local library or book share are start specifically picking out books that have numbers in them. This will help your child recognize numbers and also give them a taste for scholastic, organized learning. At this age, it still needs to be fun for them – these books should incorporate play and intrigue. You can also create your own math play at this age. Making patterns, pointing out when you see numbers on the street and comparing sizes and quantities in the world around you and your preschooler will all help familiarize them with math.
Early elementary school is often when kids transition from more playful math activities like toys and songs to more study-based arithmetic, with paper and pencils. Simple addition and subtraction problems come into play where all the stacking, organizing and counting from earlier years helps them understand basic math principles. Time and money and caring about those two fundamental parts of society become more cemented and counting by larger numbers like twos, fives and tens instead of just one by one starts to be within reach.
Around early elementary school, when math becomes more scholastic, also seems to be a shift when some kids start thinking about math as work. For those who struggle with math, it can become less of fun game. This is where it’s crucial to keep math fun! Making a family game night with board games, cards or dice can be a great way to still have fun with math, or having a bake night where you bake something regularly to practice simple math. These are ways to show your child that math can not only be fun, but that it’s actually used in ways outside of pencil and paper.
To get more tips for more math activities you can do with your child as a parent, visit us at Mathnasium of Cambridge. We would love to see you.