Introducing preschoolers to the magic of math

A variety of practical interactive and fun techniques can introduce preschoolers to the magic of math.

Typically anywhere across the world, preschool children practice very little math. They may practice counting and occasionally look at books about numbers, but that is usually about it. Most preschools devote little or no time daily to math instruction. This is far less than what most children can handle and not nearly enough to prepare those, who, deprived of math related games at home, quickly fall behind in Kindergarten and primary school. Studies indicate that early development of number concepts among preschools using physical, real life examples are critical to developing positive attitudes about mathematics later on in life.

When it comes to understanding numbers recent research suggest that infants can distinguish one object from two, and two from three By preschool the brain can handle larger numbers and is struggling to link three crucial concepts: physical quantities such as five marbles or five centimeters with abstract digit symbols ‘5’ and with corresponding number words five. Children begin recognizing geometric shapes as early as 18 months and begin to grasp informal geometric definitions by preschool. Similarly, as early as two years of age, many children will parrot the words one, two three four five etc. however, rarely do they understand that the number refers to an item or a set of items. Ay this stage children do not understand cardinality (that the last number in a sequence denotes the total number of objects or one to one correspondence counting objects one by one and matching groups of objects like cups and saucers. By involving children in special methods and activities using toys and everyday household items, parents can motivate young children to learn pre-concepts of numbers and eventually math more effectively.

So, what are the simple do it at home ways in which parents can support their toddlers in developing prenumeracy concepts and in turn foster a healthy attitude towards math learning?

Engaging children in multimedia games and exercises at homes, at the supermarket and in school using blocks, fruits, silverware, multicolored towels in everyday situations supports early math learning in an interactive and fun manner. Once a child connects for the first time that a slice of pizza is actually the shape of a triangle, it is an association and learning that is likely to stay. Other simple activities to instill cardinality concepts are through counting games, for example a child to determine the number of buttons on the shirts of those around them. This shows the child that the last number in the sequence is in fact the number of buttons there actually. This is a good way to introduce the concept of cardinality as well as the idea that zero that there are no buttons at all.

Similarly, children need to understand one to one matching that counting is actually often referring to sets of items. Children are guided by their perceptions and will, think that there are more grapefruits than lemons in a particular pile due to the actual size of the piles. One to one matching activities help them develop the concept of conversation of numbers and counting sets of items. Guiding a child to move a lemon away and then following up by moving a grapefruit away and repeating the process so that the child can see the number of fruits remains the same in the pile after each set of steps. This instills the concepts of one to one matching. Repeating this over a period of time enables the child to manipulate the pieces of fruit themselves and become more involved in the process.

Engaging in real life activities that turn into fun and interactive numeric games enable children to understand mathematical basics. By linking numbers to objects, rhythms and various aspects of the immediate environment, children see the realities of early math concepts all around them. It is then that quantity becomes a physical experience as opposed to counting alone, which is abstract.