Math really is all around us. Just about anywhere we go, we are bound to run into something math-related. Because of this, it’s important that children dip their toes into the mathematical pool as soon as possible. Here are some math concepts your child will need to know when school time rolls around. We’ve also included ways to incorporate practical lessons into everyday life.
Representation means making mathematical ideas concrete by using pictures, symbols objects or words. To give your child ideas about representation, have him or her help set the table for dinner. Count the number of plates, cups, forks, etc. you have to put out to accommodate everyone in your family. This gives your child a concrete sense of what numbers mean.
Later on, learning spatial sense will become geometry, but for right now, preschoolers need to learn the ideas of size, space, position, direction, movement and shapes. These lessons are easy to talk about every day. Take a trip to the playground. Talk about how your child climbs up the playground equipment and slides down the slide. Discuss the different shapes of everyday objects. Talk about the different size of playground equipment and trees. Be creative and keep it simple.
Number sense means learning how to count, first forward, then eventually backward. It also means being able to see relationships between numbers, like subtracting and adding. Start with everyday counting lessons like, “Let’s count the grapes in the bowl. One, two, three…” Eventually, introduce concepts like addition and subtraction: “What happens when I eat two grapes? I have one left.”
Items like shapes, images or numbers repeated in a logical way make up patterns. Patterns teach children to make predictions and logical connections and use reasoning. You can use toys to create patterns and see if your child can guess what comes next. Line up car, car, ball, car, car, ball. Ask your child to guess what might come next in the line.
Guessing the size of something is a tough concept for young children. You can introduce it to them by demonstrating ideas like less than, more than, smaller, bigger, etc. Let’s say you see two dogs walking down the street, a Doberman and a Chihuahua. Talk to your child about how the Doberman is bigger than the Chihuahua or how the Chihuahua is smaller. This kind of activity will help show your child the meaning of these concepts and move them in the direction of understanding estimation.
Finding the length, weight and height of an object or measuring units of time all fall under this skill. Cooking is a great way to teach young children measurement while teaching them valuable lessons in the kitchen. Make a simple recipe together and talk about the units of measurement. For instance, say, “This cake calls for one and a half cups of buttermilk.” Then fill up the cup completely once and let the child dump it in the bowl. Then, fill it halfway and let the child dump it in the bowl.
This skill is requires combining mathematical concepts and thinking through a problem to solve it. Help talk your children through practical problem solving every day. For instance, “The stroller won’t fit into our trunk if it’s open because it’s too big. How can we fit the stroller in the trunk so we can go to the zoo?” Show the child how the stroller takes up less space when it’s folded.
Much of learning is done outside the classroom, especially prior to formal education, so we recommend having some fun with math and practicing it every day. For more ideas on how to incorporate math into your regular activities, contact a Sparkles! team member.