A good friend of mine is a professor in the Birth-Kindergarten program at a regional university. She told me about current research indicating early math knowledge is just as, if not more, important than early literacy at predicting future academic success.
As a former English teacher and writer, I’m very comfortable with reading to my children and exposing them to rich vocabulary and literature in our home. After conversing with my friend and reading the corresponding research to which she had referred, I feel as though I’ve been neglectful in promoting early math skills with my sons, simply because I thought early reading skills were more pertinent.
Since learning how very important early math knowledge is, I’ve been very cognizant of terminology I’m using and activities I am doing with both of my boys, ages 2 and 5.
Why are early math skills important?
- Early math skills provide the foundation for the development of rational and logical thought processes.
- Children with an understanding of basic mathematical concepts are better able to see the connections between different objects and ideas.
- Being able to compare objects and ideas is a critical step towards developing the skills necessary for reasoning, reading comprehension, and other complex processes.
- Studies have shown that children who lack math/number knowledge skills in first grade never close the gap and remain behind their peers throughout school and into adulthood.
After learning why early math skills are so important, I began researching activities that would foster this knowledge in my own children. Below are some simple strategies we as parents can use to teach early math skills and stimulate early mathematical knowledge that is so critical to brain development and a child’s future success.
8 Strategies to Foster Early Math Learning
- Refrain from teaching your toddler to count by merely reciting numbers; attach numbers to a noun (i.e. “Here are two crayons;” “Hand me three blocks”). This helps teach quantity concepts.
- Teach shapes but also describe them (i.e. The rectangle is like a square but tall and skinny; then compare the two shapes).
- Talk about distance. For younger children, you may ask, “How many steps to your ball?” For older children, you may ask, “Does it take us longer to drive to Grandma’s house or to your preschool?
- Always involve children in daily math activities, such as making change or measuring ingredients.
- When playing, toddlers should be sorting and matching in regard to color, shape, texture, etc.
- When playing, encourage three- and four-year olds to recognize numbers, count, recognize geometric shapes and patterns, understand some spatial concepts, select which set is larger than/less than, and identify one-to-one correspondence (the fact that a number actually represents an amount of something).
- Set timers for certain activities like quiet time, play time, bath time, etc. This helps children begin to understand the passage of time.
- Examples of grocery store activities include learning colors, discussing shapes, recognizing the aisle numbers, measuring produce/coffee/dried goods, and counting change at the cashier.
Reading to our children will always be important as early literacy is also an integral early learning skill. Along with books and vocabulary, however, ensure that you are also exposing those budding brains to math terminology and concepts. The benefits will be lifelong.
I wrote a column similar to this blog post in the March 2014 edition of WNC Parent.