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Teaching Maths At An Early Age

by on 24/05/2018 2908

The Language Of The Universe 

Apart from literacy lessons, the ability to work with numbers too is one of the most basic skills every parent should hope their children are able to master at an early age. These disciplines, be it literacy or numeracy, are a necessity. Both are equally important in the essential early years of a child's education. Moreover, countless studies and academic journals continue to recommend that the earlier these disciplines are taught to children, the better the chance of being fairly competent in all of them in the future.

Since the topic of discussion here is centred tenaciously around mathematical literacy, here's one of the many eye-opening outlooks on mathematics, and maybe life in general that best embodies the need for early math exposure amongst children. The world-renowned astrophysicist, Neil Degrasse Tyson, in his own words, opined that "You want to speak with a Spaniard, you learn Spanish. You want to frolic in France, you learn French. You want to commune with the cosmos, you learn Mathematics - the language of the Universe."

Number Sense 

Before the article begins to get into the whys and wherefores of early math education, let's briefly talk about Number Sense. What's number sense? And how does it relate to children? Number sense refers to a specific set of skills kids are expected to possess when working with numbers. In short, kids with these skills are able to:

  • Understand the concept of quantities
  • Understand concepts of more and less, or larger and smaller
  • Recognise relationships between single items and groups of items
  • Understand symbols that represent quantities (i.e. 6 means six)
  • Understand number comparisons (15 is greater than 10)
  • Understand the order of numbers (1st, 2nd, 3rd)

Misconceptions In Maths 

According to a Stanford math professor, Jo Boaler, in his paper titled Fluency without Fear, the professor argued that asking kids to recite numbers from 1 to 10, or encouraging them to memorise multiplication tables is rather overrated and is not really helpful at all.

Boaler's research also shows that math learning can be as effective as it can be if when children are well-versed in number sense, or once they've understood their logic. Boaler further argues that most high-achievers are well trained in number sense, not rote memorisation. Following that, they learnt to use number flexibly.

"They have been set on the wrong path, often from an early age, of trying to memorise methods instead of interacting with numbers flexibly... Number sense is the foundation for all higher-level mathematics." - Boaler told Stanford News

How? And let's get started 

1) Numbers in various contexts
  • Encourage children to start counting in such a way that they'd find it meaningful and fulfilling to do so. For example, use numbers and objects or toys that are present and are dear to them. Read them aloud, one car, two cars. Then, add another, three cars, four cars and so forth.

  • Next, ask them to sort these cars into categories, maybe according to its colour. Say red, blue and green. And ask them to count how many cars that are red/blue/green.

  • This activity may seem downright petty at first but it nonetheless teaches kids to recognise what each number represents, and understand the implications of number operations.

2) Variability in size
  • It's common that children are often mesmerised by variability in size. Toys that they play, day in day out typically come in various sizes. This indirectly fosters their curiosity about inches, pounds, gallons, miles, and other systems of measurement. So, make sure you buy toys that come with varying sizes and colours.

  • Douglas H. Clements and Julie Sarama, authors of "Learning and Teaching Early Math: The Learning Trajectories Approach,"suggest that the best way for kids to learn math is through measurement." We use length consistently in our everyday lives. Measurement can help develop other areas… including reasoning and logic. Also, by its very nature, connects two critical domains of early mathematics: geometry and number."

3) Building Blocks
  • Let them play with LEGO bricks. Activities involving geometrical shapes, (i.e. circles, squares, triangles, and rectangles) helps kids establish a skill known as visual literacy.

  • Kids who are visually literate, who know what shapes are, will eventually find mathematics fairly easy to learn.

4) Language of space
  • The language of space refers to words like - front, back, behind, top, bottom, over, under, last, first, next, backward, in, on, deep, shallow, triangle, square, corner, edge, - and so forth.

  • Stipek, a professor of Education suggests that - "When you're reading a picture book to your child, point out position and spatial representation. Say, 'the tree is behind the car' and 'the roof is a triangle."

  • The language of space helps pre-schoolers understand mathematics vocabulary.

5) Math Games
  • Children learn best when they're playing. So, make math exciting to learn! Organise a fun-filled, math-oriented activity. Make sure those activities are as spontaneous and entertaining as they can be.

  • You can try board games. Playing with dice teaches addition

Teaching My Kids Maths At An Early Age? 

Math is but the language of logic. Learning math thus helps establish foundations of various reasoning skills amongst children. Dr. Jie-Qi Chen, a professor of Child Development at the Erikson Institute, in her own words, remarked that "Math is the language of logic. Math builds reasoning, which leads to comprehension. Developing a mentally organised way of thinking is critical. We need to provide high-quality math education at an early age."

So, as parents, what can we do to get our kids cultivate a lifetime love at math? How do we teach them in the first place? Everything starts from home. For a start, bring math in the routines of our daily life in forms of games and fun numerical activities. Play puzzles. Play building blocks. Play board games, and card games. All these games have been carefully studied and proved to be effective to elevate math skills amongst children. Good luck!