Monday, 13 April 2015

Why Preschool Math Counts!

One of the most critical mathematical concepts is cardinality: the ability to understand quantity. Research suggests that cardinality is innate; infants are born being able to subitize, which means to visually distinguish between different amounts.

How do we prove what infants know? Apparently, it's all in the eye movements. In 1992, Nature magazine published a study that showed 5 month old infants could recognize the consequences of adding and subtracting objects. Similar studies have replicated the results. Regardless of whether you accept the premise that infants grasp cardinality, you have anecdotal evidence that your preschool child does. Your child demonstrated an appreciation for cardinality the first time he or she looked up at you and asked for more!

All this is well and good, but how do we turn the toddler asking for more stories, more ice cream or more glitter into a successful math student? Here are a few preschool maths activities that you can build into everyday routines to develop and practice critical early math concepts. 

Count things your child can hold or touch
So many excellent online preschool math games, parents sometimes forget the importance of manipulative. The ability to make the one-to-one correspondence in more advanced cardinality (okay, counting) is strengthened by a child's ability to hold and manipulate the items being counted. Research shows that much of a toddler's learning is tactile and kinetic, so while technology is an outstanding asset in early learning, it can only augment, not replace, manipulative and kinetic experience. Work counting in whenever possible: count books with your child as you put them on the shelf; count blocks as your child stacks them; count snack pieces as you hand them out. Remember, a toddler learns with his or her whole body: you can also count as your child climbs stairs, hops or claps. That being said, preschool math games online can engage children through sound as well as sight. When you use technology, choose games that reinforce counting with music or sound effects.

Don't be in a rush to move to formal addition and subtraction. However, you can lay the groundwork by adding items to a set or taking some away and saying, "Now how many?" A child with a strong foundation in the mechanics of addition and subtraction will make a smooth transition to the more formal mathematic expressions of it.

Most importantly, remain patient and low-key. As toddlers learn to talk, we guide them to correct pronunciation and syntax; we don't sit them down for "talking class."  Similarly, if you "speak math" in the course of daily activities, your child will, over time, build a foundation that will add up to math success in school.

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