Though it may not seem so, the world is a math equation, and every facet of daily life is surrounded by mathematical concepts.
Young children are natural explorers and natural learners. A baby quickly learns language by imitating his or her parents. A toddler learns to walk by seeing others around him do so.
Building a love of math in a child is important.
A child who learns to hate math may struggle through years of school. A child who is excited about math may become the scientific explorer who continues to make new discoveries throughout his or her life.
For young children, learning math concepts does not mean sitting at a desk filling in worksheets. Young children learn math through exploration and everyday activities.
There are several ways to build math skills through daily interactions.
Recognizing and understanding patterns are important for both reading and math development. Patterns can be found in the flowers in the garden or in the leaves on the trees. They can also be found in the home in artwork, curtains or the way tools are arranged in the kitchen or garage.
Teach young children to recognize patterns by actively pointing them out. Patterning can also be taught through educational toys such as pattern blocks and cubes. Start with two items. Continue to build increasingly complex patterns.
Counting is an integral part of math. The world is full of items to be counted and most young children will be eager to do so when they are shown this. Look for things to be counted in your daily life.
Count spoons and knives as you set the table. Count trees that you see along the road. Start small and gradually increase the number of objects to be counted. One way to teach counting is to put some put some items in a jar.
Try to guess how many objects are in it through observation, and then count them.
Learning to recognize the numbers can be done through magnetic numbers placed on the refrigerator.
It can also be done through pointing out numbers in newspapers, on bank statements and on houses. Make this a concrete concept by showing a number and then counting the same number of objects.
Concepts like first, second and third can easily be taught through everyday interactions. Most children with siblings are used to thinking about who goes first and who goes second.
To ensure that a child understands it, make a point of pointing out who is first in the line at the post office. Note who is fourth in line. Young children will make the connection.
Months and Days of the Year
Learning the months and days of the year is another math concept for young children. Using an old-fashioned calendar everyday can make this clear. Each day, point out the month and day.Mark off each day as it passes.
This is also a good way to teach counting as you can start at one and count up to the current day. Starting with January, recite the months in the year. Do the same with the days of the week. Point out what day came before and what day will follow.
Learning how to tell time on an analog clock may not seem that important in the digital age when one can simply read the time off of the computer or cell phone. However, using a clock is an excellent way to build understanding.
Educational clocks with big numbers and movable hour and minute hands are ideal. Begin by teaching the hour. Once children can easily recognize the hour, move on to the minutes.
Using the minutes hand on a clock is an easy way to teach counting and will make it easier to understand multiples as the child sees how the clock is divided into five minute intervals.
The universe is an amazing place full of discoveries for both young and old. While adults may struggle to reclaim their love of learning, young children are natural sponges that are ready to observe and experiment with all that they see.
This love of learning doesn’t have to go away only to be searched for later. By helping young children see the patterns, beauty, and relevance of math all around them, they can use their natural instincts to learn. Math skills at the early ages focus on the concrete but, through the simple, one will see complexity.
Society is becoming more and more focused on technology. The world will be run by those who understand it and build on it. Inspiring a love of math in a child is one of the best ways to ensure that a child will be a part of the future.
Sara Holden is a math intervention specialist with DreamBox (provides online help for first grade math)