Children use early math skills every day, whether at school or at home, during their routines or at play. Getting dressed and brushing teeth, eating breakfast, going grocery shopping–all of these activities present opportunities for teaching mathematics in early childhood when approached with the right mindset. But that is just a start and soon your learner will seek an AMC 8 online class to propel their skills.
Importance of numeracy in early childhood
Numeracy–understanding how numbers represent the world–is present in children long before they open their first math textbook. Mathematics plays a major role in a child’s development and helps children make sense of the world around them. Research has shown that babies as young as 3 months are sensitive to differences in quantity, so it’s never too soon to start teaching mathematics in early childhood education. There are plenty of fun ways to introduce math in the classroom: songs with numbers and operations, observing patterns in nature, even geometric snack time!
Teaching mathematics in early childhood
Parents and educators play an important role in early childhood development by providing opportunities for children to learn and develop new skills. Adults need to allow children to direct their own play and support them by enhancing or extending their play. In order to give children the best chance to develop their math skills, adults must give them opportunities to:
- Discover and create.
- Use number concepts and skills to explore.
- Develop confidence in their ability to think things through.
- Solve meaningful problems.
Math play: examples from a preschool classroom
This category includes ordering and comparing objects to figure out time, weight and length. For example, Kyle held up his block tower and said, “this is taller than me.” James looked towards Kyle and pointed towards the block tower. “Me too, it’s taller than me,” he said as he looked up towards the top of the block tower. Kyle and James demonstrated how they could compare how tall the block tower is to each of their heights.
Also known as number sense, this category includes saying number words, writing numbers, counting, and recognizing a number of objects. For example, “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10,” counted Devon as he pointed towards the cars lined up on the table. “I have more than you,” he said as he pointed towards Melissa’s cars lined up. “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6…oh yeah,” she said as she pointed towards her cars lined up next to Devon’s cars. Devon and Melissa demonstrated counting and recognizing the number of cars they each had to compare each other’s quantities.
Pattern and shape
This category includes identifying or creating patterns and shapes. For example, Jeremy and Mira sat on the carpet next to one another in the block area. Jeremy placed a magnetic block together. “I’m making a house,” he said as he placed more magnetic blocks together. He took a magnetic block apart and said, “this needs to be over here,” and pointed at his magnetic blocks on the floor. Mira looked towards Jeremy’s magnetic blocks and pointed down toward her magnetic blocks. “I’m making a pizza,” she said. Jeremy and Mira created patterns and shapes with 2D magnetic blocks to build symmetrical structures.
This category includes grouping or sorting objects by characteristics. For example, Casey placed a red horse into the red bowl. She picked up a blue pig and placed the blue pig into the blue bowl. “The blue pig goes in the blue pig pen,” she said. Casey was classifying by sorting the blue and red animals into the corresponding same colored bowls.
This category includes using symbols or tokens to refer to quantities and operations. For example, Sarah takes four crackers from the plate. “Four because I am four,” she said. Preetish points to his plate: “I have four grapes because I’m four, too.” Sarah and Preetish are representing their age using snacks.
This category includes the ability to approximate values, i.e., make an educated guess about size or quantity. For example, Jack is shown a jar filled with jellybeans and asked to guess how many are inside. “There must be a hundred jellybeans there!” he said. “I bet there’s a thousand jellybeans,” Sheena guessed. Jack and Sheena are estimating by trying to guess how many jellybeans are in the jar.