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.
Huffington Post article on early math skills
Robin (Masshole Mommy) says
I always did counting games with my boys when they were younger. I am TERRIBLE at math, but I always figured if I got them interested when they were little, they would grow up to be much better than me at math!
Lindsey @ Redhead Baby Mama says
I have terrible math anxiety. I prefer geometry to any other kind of math.
My boys all love math. Pattern activities are great, too.
Thank you for sharing all of these ideas! My son is struggling with math so I’m going to work with him using these tips!
I definitely agree that math skills need to be taught very young! You provided some great tips that I can use with my 3-year-old, thank you
Tracey Tabone says
Great tips. Math can be challenging so no harm in getting an early start.
Lucas loves counting…everything! If there is more than one object (in a book, in real life, wherever) he is counting. He has recently started counting backwards, and we work with him on subtracting – especially when he is eating. (How many are left?) The kid loves to learn!
Debra Fazio-Rutt says
Great tips. Math teaches children logic – which is so important in life. I’ve never been any good at math, but my son is a whiz, I try to encourage it!
My daughter was always great at math, and now she is struggling… I will have to practice more at home with her.
Sabrina Radke says
So grateful for your tips! I have a 4 year old and I am trying to teach him things to prepare for school but honestly I am lost at where to start and what I should expect from him. I’m printing your post for future reference and some ideas too, thank you so much seriously!
Wonderful! I’m so glad you found it helpful.
Krystyn @ Really, Are You Serious? says
Fabulous tips. I like the idea of associating a number with a noun. And, timers, we need to work on that. My 7 and 5 year old are terrible judges of time:)
Marta Mart says
I think this is super important! I am trying to incorporate math everywhere I can as I believe it teaches them logic and problem solving. Thanks for sharing!
I try and do some counting activities with my daughter. I know she does some toddler math at her preschool too. She seems to like the number games.
Krissy Higgins (@Krissy_r) says
I wish I would of started earlier with my daughter – she is struggling now in the 6th grade, and I think it’s because I didn’t get it in her head earlier. My youngest I’ve been working with since he was little, and he’s doing great. Weird how that works.
Wow! That is so interesting. Research used to be all about reading; I’m glad they’re looking at math now as well.
Shop with Me Mama (Kim) says
we do lots of counting and number games. My boy is really good at math 🙂
[email protected] says
Like you, I am quite comfortable reading to my littles, we do it without making a conscious effort. However, math is a different story. Thanks for the ideas to incorporate math into our every day!
These are great ideas. I will share them with my daughter for my grandkids.
Janel C. says
I LOVE all of your activities to help foster math skills in kids. I am guilty of just counting and will start adding the nouns to each number. Also, I like your advice about asking older kids which place takes longer to arrive at…..thanks for sharing!
Valerie Gray (@valmg) says
Terrific tips! You make a great point about associating concepts with the drills.
Jenn @ The Rebel Chick says
That’s a great suggestion about helping in the kitchen, what a great way to help support learning of measurements.
Brett Martin (@brettbmartin) says
we do lots of cooking with the kids- they learn more than life skills. lego blocks are also a fab way to learn math and spatial awareness!
These are some great tips. I have found that for my nephew he seems to grasp number concepts more quickly than letters/words. I think we’re all just wired a little differently! I’m much more of a words person myself.
Liz Mays says
The hands on activities cement concepts like strict memorization never could. Great ideas here.
These are some great ideas. Getting kids to talk through what they are thinking is a huge help in Math as well!
This is an awesome post. I like the idea of giving them something to count to reiterate learning how.
Melanie Scout (@GameOnMom) says
I definitely focus more on verbal than I do on math. I need to make a better effort to incorporate math into our daily learning. Thanks for the tips.
Dina Demarest (@dinade) says
Kids love it when you spend time with them doing anything. It’s great to turn it into math when you can for sure!
Chasing Joy says
Great tips. Pinning
Great! Thank you.
[email protected] says
i loved counting games when my kids were little. today as they move further into school it’s not so much fun
My oldest loved counting. I loved teaching him numbers. Till this day, he loves learning.
Christina Shirley says
We count, but I hadn’t thought about actual math terms and what-not for my almost 3 year old. I’m going to start working on that.
We are working with my toddler now on counting. I am just excited he finally knows where his nose and bellybutton are! ;D
It can be fun to link numbers and shapes: squares, 1, 4, 9, 16, 25, … can be made by always adding the next odd number, 4=1+3, 9=1+3+5, 16=1+3+5+7, etc., and these can be seen as the layers you get by adding a row and column.
Similarly, triangle numbers 1, 3=1+2, 6=1+2+3, 10=1=2+3+4, can be made by adding rows to the triangle.
That is very interesting. Thank you! As more of a language person, I’m always looking for new math ideas. I love this.
Erikson Early Math (@eriksonmath) says
Thanks for this post. A lot of great thoughts and ideas. We added a link on our website. You can find some other great lists (and other resources) pertaining to early math there. http://earlymath.erikson.edu/series/early-math-lists
One minor correction. You write that a “rectangle is like a square but tall and skinny”… in fact, a square is a type of rectangle. 🙂
Why, thank you for that information! I never knew that. And thank you for sharing my post; I will certainly check out the other links. Best wishes!