Math, The Early Years

Jan 21, 2015 | Rockwall-Heath

Math – The Early Years: Before introducing numbers, try this…

The Fibonacci pattern can be found everywhere in nature and can be used to help teach children about math concepts.

ROCKWALL/HEATH, TX (Dec. 18, 2014) This year, Thanksgiving was special in many ways. The most delightful was an opportunity to spend a week with a two year old who kept everyone busy and laughing. His curiosity and enthusiasm reminded me that children begin to lay the foundations for future learning at a very young age and need to be exposed to the fun of reading and “mathing” early in their formative years.

Children are capable of some amazing things if they are given a chance to learn math in a fun and engaging way. But, before introducing numbers, they need to be introduced to thinking in mathematical ways. There are concepts that children need, beginning from an early age, to help them with the transition from tangible things to the abstractions of numbers and operations.   Here are some suggestions to help get them started.

  • Spatial Reasoning – Talk with your children about up, down, below, inside, outside, before, after, around, etc. This will help them with their understanding of space around them and relationships of things.
  • Classification – Work with your children to understand the concept of same, different, alike, similar, etc. Also, include activities that involve grouping objects by characteristics (size, shape, color, length, weight, etc.)
  • Patterns – Math is full of patterns. Talk about how things can be arranged in patterns or show them patterns in nature. Discuss words like symmetry, same, repeat and next. Daily life is full of things that can be used as examples of these concepts and it can be done in fun ways. One pattern that most children seem fascinated by and can be found in nature everywhere is called the Fibonacci pattern. Entertaining videos of this and other math concepts can be found on the internet*.
  • Ordering – Make a game out of ordering items around the house. Discuss with your child the ideas of smaller to bigger, more to less, shorter to longer and lighter to heavier.  Make sure they are comfortable with these concepts before you introduce numbers.
  • One To One Correspondence – Understanding “greater than”, “less than” and “equal to” is a skill that they will use throughout their education and can be introduced even before Kindergarten.

With these basic concepts under their belt they can then start tackling the more abstract concept of the relative values of numbers. Just because a child can count from 1 to 10 doesn’t mean they understand that those numbers represent different values until they are introduced to them.  These skills can be taught at home in a playful way or with books that are available almost everywhere. A child’s natural curiosity and love of new things makes it easy to create games to learn about math. It is also what makes being a teacher so rewarding.

*Vi Hart: Doodling in Math: Spirals, Fibonacci, and Being a Plant, Youtube.  All of Vi’s videos are wonderful introductions to the wonders of math and nature.