I know. The first thing that you felt when you saw that word may not have been warm and fuzzy emotions. Want to know what I think when I hear that word? When I hear “MATH,” I think potential, opportunity, achievement, and open doors. That is because math opens the door for critical thinking, problem solving and innovation (more on that below). We are in the midst of the most exciting technological revolution that has ever hit the human race. At the heart of technology lies math and abstract thinking. Priming our kiddos for innovation and technological savvy, with purpose and good intent backing it, can make our world an immensely better place to live. And THAT, my friends, is exciting!
Research says that knowledge of math is a strong predictor of later academic and professional achievement. In fact, children’s early math skills may be an even better indicator of their future academic success and ability to enter STEM careers than reading skills! STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and the future is all about it. Just think how much impact Amazon has made over the last decade and the speed at which it is innovating and changing the reality we live in today. That pace of innovation and progress will only quicken in the coming years and into the future.
On one end, we will consume more and more technology and rely on technological advances to solve so many of the problems that humans are craving solutions for. I imagine the cure for cancer, walking after paralysis, cleaning up our planet, and prevention of violence. On the other end, we will need thinkers who will be able to think through those possible solutions and use their knowledge of science, technology, engineering, and math to actually turn those solutions into reality.
Hold up! What is a person who is all about words, vocabulary, and language development in children doing talking about math? I’m glad you asked (even if I technically asked myself).
Growing confident in math and being successful with it depends only on how good you are with numbers. You’re either born with it or you’re not. NOT! FALSE! AU CONTRAIRE! UH-UH! MYTH! ABSOLUTELY AND POSITIVELY NOT!
Growing confident in math and being successful with it depends heavily on language and word knowledge, and it can be fostered and stimulated in a child to help them thrive.
When I worked in NYC schools with kids of all ages, I saw so many of them STRUGGLE with figuring out math language and vocabulary. So many fell apart when presented with a short word problem. This is especially evident in kids from highly impacted communities where high stress, violence, and the debilitating effects of poverty are a daily reality. These children’s struggles with math contribute to an ever-widening and overwhelming achievement gap that is life-altering.
Now for the AMAZING NEWS! Our children’s brains are like sponges in early childhood and, especially, during the critical period between the ages of 0-3 and into early childhood. This is a huge window of opportunity when we can give them a “leg up” in life by fostering their early pre-math skills.
I know what some of you may be thinking. “Teach babies math? Are you one of those tiger moms?”
Nope. We don’t exactly teach babies and toddlers multiplication and exponents, but babies and toddlers are fully ready to engage and take in math concepts very early on. That’s right! These little beings are equipped and ready to take in many early math skills, or those skills that will lay the foundation for their math skills, which will then set them up for success with math and critical thinking in school and the essential process of problem-solving in their lives.
The seven important early math skills I am referring to are:
Allow me to elaborate on these below. I’ll provide the definition of each early math skill along with the math and life skills it helps support. Words we can use to stimulate growth with the skill are included as well.
There is a lot of information here, so I suggest taking your time or zeroing in on the math skill(s) you’re most interested in by clicking on one or more of the skills above. It’s not an all or nothing game, folks!
In the not too distant future, I’ll address each of the early math skills described below. I will do my best to break them down into digestible posts on how to use the magic of your words in SIMPLE play activities that engage kids, stimulate their math brain, and help them thrive.
So here is a bit more on the 7 early math skills we can help foster in children to help them thrive:
This refers to thinking about and manipulating 2D and 3D objects and shapes in your mind. It includes mental rotations, visualizing from different angles and from the inside, how positions of objects relate to each other and how they fit together.
Counting is saying or thinking numbers in order.
The actual number of items in a set. This is different from counting, since it represents the idea that one number can describe the quantity of an entire set. In other words, this is when a person understands that, when counting items, after counting out to the number 5, they can understand that the total number of those items is 5.
Patterns refer to things, numbers, pictures, shapes or events that repeat in a logical way.
This is the process of figuring out the amount or size of something (length, height, width, weight, distance, temperature, money, etc.).
When you estimate you use your ability to make a good/close guess about the amount or size of something.
SORTING AND MATCHING
This refers to separating or pairing people, places, things, or events according to type and characteristic(s).
It’s a lot to digest, but don’t fret. A little goes a long way here. The trick is repetition that doesn’t have to feel like work. You can instill these concepts in a fun and stress-free way through the POWER OF YOUR WORDS during play or simply enjoying your environment with your wee ones.
Do you have stories of struggle/success about any of the early math skills listed above or activities that are helpful? Please share them with me below! You’ll also find me posting about early math skills and more on social media. I would love to connect with you there too!