We often hear we should read to our children every day because we know it will help them become better readers as they get older and will encourage them to value and enjoy reading as a hobby. It is also just as important to participate in everyday practices that will help your child value and understand math.
Emergent mathematics, which refers to the earliest phases of a child’s development of mathematical and spatial concepts, has been identified as an important predictor of success as children transition to Kindergarten and progress through elementary school. In fact, research has shown that early exposure to mathematics can support children’s literacy abilities, as well. It is clear that math is important, even for very young children, and it is never too early to begin modeling math practices.
There are many fun ways to incorporate math into your daily routine, like counting plates while setting the table or using comparison words—like “more” and “less” or “tall” and “short”—with your children. You can also help your child identify the shapes in your home by explaining how the refrigerator is shaped like a rectangle and the clock looks like a circle. Conversations with your child can also include questions that promote mathematical thinking, such as ”How can we solve this puzzle?” or “What is the first thing we should do?”
Make your home more math-friendly
When I say make your home math-friendly, I’m not talking about a worksheet area where children must sit and complete a page of math problems or a flash card area where children must memorize basic math facts and regurgitate them to you. However, having physical spaces in your home that encourage children to reason and practice problem-solving skills—such as an area designated for building with blocks and Legos, math games or a play kitchen with tools for measuring ingredients—are good starting places.
Creating a mathematics environment in your home requires more than just identifying appropriate locations, though; it combines both the physical space and the interactions you have on a daily basis with your child.
Consider the following when exploring how to make your home more math-friendly:
- Make materials readily available throughout your home that are useful in problem solving (i.e., puzzles, blocks, measuring cups, buttons or stickers for sorting, etc.). You can also encourage your child to play learning games and engage in other math activities for kids, like the ones outlined in this blog post.
- Ask your child open-ended questions to encourage him to tell you how he solved a problem. (i.e., “Tell me about your building. Why did you place this block here? How did you make it so tall?”)
- Talk with your children about the importance of math, even if you don’t like doing math yourself! When children see or hear you speaking negatively about math, they will begin to view it in a negative way as well, so make an effort to have positive dialogue that reinforces the value of math.
- Incorporate math into everything you do. There are so many opportunities to make math connections throughout the day, whether by using sequencing words during a diaper change (”First, we are going to get our wipes and diaper ready.”), or counting and comparing snacks (“How many fruit snacks do you have? Who has the most fruit snacks?”), or even playing outside (“Let’s see if we can run around the yard for one minute. What does one minute feel like compared to five minutes?”). Read this blog post to learn more about how you can incorporate math into your daily activities away from home.
To truly support emergent mathematics in young children, we must capitalize on their natural desire to question, explore, play and discover new knowledge about the world around them. These skills will enable children to think critically, problem solve and communicate their understandings when they transition to Kindergarten and beyond!