Infants begin to learn maths before they can sit up. They notice differences in quantity. They compare the shape and size of objects. Children use early math concepts when they play and in other aspects of their daily lives. Learning math helps children to develop the ability to think critically and solve problems. Both are integral to success in school and life, but not all children learn the math skills they need to succeed.
Young children are learning math all the time through a wide variety of play experiences. Simple activities like letting your child set the table for dinner can help develop counting skills. Involve your child with household activities. After washing, allow your child to sort clothes in different colors, or different types of clothes, t-shirts, and socks. This will help to develop a child’s knowledge of shapes and colors.
Block play or playing with toy cars can help to develop sequencing by encouraging your child to sequence according to size, color, use. Playing with different sized blocks can help to develop an understanding of weight and dimensions. Tidying toys away allows children to sort into different sizes and colors. It can also develop mathematical language – first, second, third, how many are blue, which is the largest / smallest. You can help to promote mathematical language such as – heavy, light, empty, full, long, short, big, small in relevant contexts.
With a 3-year-old child, begin learning math trough the address and phone number of your home. Gather together a basket of small toys, shells, pebbles or buttons. Notice the sizes of objects in the street around you. Through everyday activities, children learn, quite naturally, to count, measure, add, and estimate. Use a calendar to talk about the date, the day of the week, and the weather.
How can I support my child’s learning?
You are an important partner in your child’s mathematics education. When you find ways to engage your child in thinking and talking about mathematics, you are providing an important key for unlocking his or her future success. Today, critical thinking, problem-solving, reasoning ability and the ability to communicate mathematically are essential skills.
Tips for Parents
• Math problems … you just need to develop positive and strong views about mathematics. When children feel successful and positively engaged, they are more likely to struggle with an activity or problem to find a solution.
• Begin with activities that meet your child’s level of mathematical understanding. Early success in solving problems will build your child’s confidence. Gradually move on to activities that give your child more challenges.
• Your child will better understand the concepts in the language he or she knows best.
NUMBERS ARE EVERYWHERE!
So Many Things to Count!
Learning about numbers usually involves children touching, pointing and moving objects and saying numbers out loud – so encourage them!
• Organize an activity where the child will count toys, kitchenware, clothing items while leaving the dryer, collections (such as stickers, buttons or rocks) and any other items that the child is interested in counting.
• Be creative! Have your kid count a set of objects but start at different places in the set (for example, start counting in the middle or end of the set rather than at the beginning).
This activity helps to develop the idea that the counting of objects can begin with any object in a set and the total will still be the same.
• Sing counting songs and use counting in meaningful ways in games, such as Hide-and-Seek. Counting games, rhymes and songs exist in every culture. Some counting songs and rhymes help children to count forward and backward as well.
• Have your child skip count (counting by twos, fives or tens) to count larger groups of items quickly. Use such objects as toothpicks, blocks, pasta pieces, or buttons.
As children count, they teach to connect quantities (such as five buttons) with their number names (such as the word five) and symbols (such as 5).
• Play these activities! It can be very interesting for children when you are creative. Develop a child’s awareness of the symbols used to represent numbers by making it a game. Look for number symbols in your home and neighborhood: on the television remote, on the microwave, on the telephone keypad, in flyers and media, on signs and team sweaters.
• Ask for your child’s help to count items in your home. “I wonder how many chairs we have around the table? In this room? In the house?” Count windows, light switches, lamps or beds. You might record “how many” by using a combination of numbers and pictures.
Solve Everyday Problems
Motivate your child to talk about and show a math problem in a way that makes sense to her or him. For example, your kid may act it out, use the actual materials, draw it or count on his or her fingers!
Involve your child in using numbers to solve problems and make everyday decisions.
You might ask the following:
• “We need five carrots to make our sauce for dinner, and we have only two.
How many more do we need to buy?”
• “You have one pillow in your room and your sister has two pillows in her room.
How many pillowcases do I need to wash?”
• “Three guests are coming to eat dinner with us. How many plates will we need?
How many dishes?”
In challenging situations, you might involve adding or subtracting larger numbers, or situations in which your child has to add or subtract more than once to solve the problem.
Comparing Things Around the Home
Your kid can start to understand some basic principles of measurement just by comparing items around the home :
• Sometimes, we can estimate an amount. We don’t always need an exact measure.
• The object itself can be measured in different ways.
• The measuring tool must be used in the same way each time.
• Ask your child to estimate how many of a grocery item (for example, a type of fruit or vegetable, bread or pet food) your family will need for the week. Ask, “Why do you think that amount will be needed?” At the end of the week, have your child count the number used.
• Collect containers, boxes, and packages from the cupboard. Ask your child to put them in some type of order (for example, taller and shorter, holds more and holds less, empty and full, heavier and lighter).
How Long Does It Take?
When your kid connects the passing of time to personal events, he or she will begin to develop an understanding of measurement terms involving duration:
• Longer and shorter • Faster and slower • First and last • Before and after
• Use comparison to let your child know the passage of time (for example, “It took us only two minutes to tidy up your toys”). Tell your child the time in the context of daily activities (for example, “It will be 7 p.m. in ten minutes and time for your bath”).
• With your child, use a clock to know how much time it takes to get to school, eat meals, get ready for bed or play a game.
• Involve your child in learning to organize personal and family events on a calendar. Have your child write on the calendar some favorite “away from home” activities (such as playing a sport, going to the library or visiting a friend) and what time the activity will take place (for example, ballet 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.)
PATTERNING AND ALGEBRA
Listening for Patterns
• Clap your hands and stomp one foot in a sequence (such as clap, clap, stomp; clap, clap, stomp; clap, clap, stomp). Have your child repeat the same sequence. Then together create variations of the pattern.
• Have fun teaching your child simple dances that include a sequence of steps and movements.
Patterns at Home or in the Neighbourhood
Help your child to recognize the patterns that are all around – and to describe them by using mathematical words, such as repeat, over again, it’s the same and it changes to.
• Your child will find patterns in clothing, in wallpaper, in tiles, on toys and among trees and flowers. Encourage your child to describe the patterns found. Have your child try to identify the features of the pattern that repeat.
• With your child, try searching for images on the Internet by using such keywords as “patterns around us.”
In a repeating pattern, the pattern core is the part that repeats over and over – for example, in the pattern ABB ABB ABB, the pattern core is ABB. Help your child recognize the structure of repeating patterns in these fun exercises!
Charts, tables, and graphs are some ways to highlight patterns.
• Lay a row of nine spoons so that each handle points up or down in a pattern with a core of up, up, down (up, up, down; up, up, down; up, up, down). Ask your child to extend the pattern.
• Make this task more challenging and ask your child to describe and say the patterns aloud:
• Make the pattern core longer – for example, up, up, down, up; up, up, down, up; up, up, down, up.
• Change one of the elements in the pattern core – for example, up, up, down, sideways; up, up, down, sideways; up, up, down, sideways.
• Explore growing patterns with your child by using toothpicks or straws. Ask your child to keep the pattern growing. What comes next?
WHAT ARE THE CHANCES?
Sorting for Life
Early experiences in sorting and classifying objects around the house can help prepare children for organizing data into meaningful categories.
Children can often explain how they sorted objects but may have Tip! difficulty understanding how others have sorted the objects.
• Begin by thinking of a simple sorting rule (such as “Everything in the group is blue”), and sort some objects according to the rule. Ask your child to guess the rule. Reverse roles.
• Encourage your child to sort household items – crayons by color, cutlery by type or shape, materials for the recycling box or items in the refrigerator and cupboard.
• Have your child sort objects into two groups: those that have a certain characteristic and those that do not (for example, a group of clothes that go on hangers and a group of clothes that do not). Talk about your child’s thinking by asking, “How did you sort these?” “How are the objects the same? Different?” “Can you sort these another way?”
DATA MANAGEMENT AND PROBABILITY
More Sunny Days or Rainy Days?
Even young children can use simple graphs, tables, charts, and other graphic organizers to help make sense of data.
A pictograph is a graph that uses pictures to represent numerical data.
• Have your child draw pictures on a calendar to record each day’s weather. At the end of a week or month, make a pictograph showing how many sunny days, cloudy days and rainy days were in that month.
Source: Developing Math Skills in Early Childhood, Barbara Harris and Dana Petersen
Doing Mathematics with Your Child, Kindergarten to Grade 6: A Parent Guide