Parents play a fundamental role in their children’s early mathematics teaching: they can not only provide toys and entertainment related to mathematics, but they can become the model that demonstrates how they apply to everyday activities.
Children who see their parents applying mathematics every day participate more often in activities related to this discipline. This, in turn, helps to form early mathematical skills, which serve as the basis for further learning.
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As researchers who analyze the mathematical development of children, we believe that there are five skills that children should have before school age. Opportunities to learn these skills are everywhere, and there are simple and enjoyable activities that can help parents foster these skills.
This will help children acquire the vocabulary and skills necessary to learn math at their age, keeping them busy and at the same time fun.
1. Counting and numerical value
According to the criteria for studying a university career or exercising a profession in the USA state, Maryland, children are expected to demonstrate simple counting skills before starting in kindergarten. These skills include counting to 20; order numbered cards; identity without counting how many elements are in a small set, and understand that quantity does not change regardless of how a set of elements is organized.
Children also need to learn the numerical value of a set. That means they must understand that the last element counted represents the number of elements in the set.
In everyday activities, they can also be taught to count and the meaning of numerical value. Children can count their toys while picking them up or how many steps there are from the kitchen to their room. Parents can point numbers on a clock or on the phone.
In the same way, at the supermarket, parents can ask them to find numbers while shopping. In the car, parents can teach them to read the numbers on the license plates or count the cars that pass. Then, parents should ask: “How many cars have passed?” To reinforce the idea of numerical value.
Board games are useful and fun tools to improve counting ability and numerical value. Have the children identify the number on the dice when it is their turn and count aloud when they move their token. Active games that involve counting out loud – like jumping rope hopscotch play, or clapping – also encourage these skills.
2. Operations and algebraic thinking
Preschool children are expected to solve simple addition and subtraction problems using objects.
Parents can get children to solve simple math problems during daily tasks. For example, they can ask them to calculate the correct number of dishes or utensils when they help set the table for dinner. Remember that the mathematical language that children listen to is fundamental. Parents may ask for example: “How many more dishes do we need?”
During the game, parents can use toys and say things like: “I’m going to give you one of my cars. Let’s count how many cars you have now.” Children’s songs that include counting up or down, such as Five in the Bed or Teasing Mr. Crocodile, can also be useful for teaching how to add and subtract at an early age.
3. Numbers and operations based on 10
Children should begin to understand that the number “ten” is composed of 10 elements of “one.”
Counting fingers and toes is an excellent way to emphasize numbers from one to 10. Money, coins, in particular, is another way to emphasize counting to 10. Parents can play in the store with their children using coins and having them “buy” toys for different amounts of pennies. During the game, they could determine how many toys they can buy with 10 cents.
4. Measurements and data
Kindergarteners are expected to classify objects by their characteristics – such as shape, color, and size – or identify the characteristic by which the objects were ordered. They are also expected to order objects by some characteristic that can be measured, such as from highest to lowest.
In the kitchen, children can start experimenting with measurements using spoons or cups. Children can order utensils, clothes, or toys while storing them. Card and dice games, like War, are useful for talking about numerical magnitude. In addition, several ranking games that are cheap, such as Ready Sets Go or Ready Set Woof, are available in stores.
In addition, kindergarten children should have the ability to compare objects and know the meaning of more or less, longer or shorter, and heavier or lighter. Parents can help them understand the use of these words to give them the concept of comparisons. When children help with household chores, parents can ask, for example, “Can you give me the biggest source?”; or “Can you place the smaller forks on the table?”
Early geometric skills include naming and identifying two-dimensional (2D) shapes such as circles, squares, and triangles. Children should also realize that shapes of different sizes, orientations, and dimensions are similar. Children should be able to recognize that a circle is like a sphere and use informal names like “box” and “ball” to identify three-dimensional objects.
Parents can draw children’s attention to the geometric figures that are in their environment. On a walk, parents can point out that the wheels are circles and then have the children find other circles around them. Commercially available games such as Perfection can help children learn to identify simple or more complex ways. Puzzles, cubes, and Legos are another excellent way to help develop early geometric skills.