As adults, we use maths daily to calculate our grocery budget, estimate the amount of time we need to get to work, and so on. Therefore, it is crucial to expose children to mathematical reasoning at a very young age.
There are plenty of ways to make maths part of their everyday lives before children reach school going age. For example, counting steps as your child goes up and down a flight of stairs, or sharing half of their treats with a friend or sibling while explaining how a whole can be divided into parts.
Between the ages of three and six, there are many ways to develop children’s mathematical skills at home. To get you started, why not attempt the following six?
1. Identifying shapes
Cut different shapes out of different-coloured paper, and try the following activities: naming objects by colour and shape; putting one shape inside another; seeing how many triangles make up a square; making objects like houses or cars out of different shapes; and so on.
Cooking requires measuring and calculation skills. Hence, cooking is the perfect tool to establish foundational maths skills. For example, if the recipe asks for two cups of flour, let your child take out the flour, show them how to measure out a cup and tip it out into the bowl. Then, let them measure the second one while simultaneously counting the number of cups you’ve added to the bowl. By reading the recipe to your child and then asking them to fetch the necessary utensils or to help measure the ingredients, you’re teaching them a mathematical process, and they won’t even realise it!
Gather a basket of your child’s toys. Sit down on the floor and ask your child to sort the toys according to various criteria, like colour, size and type.
Encourage them by doing one or two yourself. Also, attempt to make the instructions relevant to everyday life, like ‘Let’s park all the cars under the chair,’ or ‘Can you take all the animals back to the farm?’ And remember – keep it fun!
4. Dishing things out
Give your child a task. Ask them to hand out things like snacks or treats – drawing attention to the numbers involved. For instance, ‘How many chocolates do we have? Okay, now please give one to mommy, one to daddy…’ and so on.
5. Talk about numbers
Whenever you’re dividing tomatoes between plates, setting the dinner table, or counting the amount of blue cars on your way home, involve your children in the process.
When they are ready, draw their attention to the numbers on the houses in your street to develop a sense of sequences.
6. Size things up
Point out the size of things in your child’s world. Get them thinking about their size in relation to other objects. ‘Can you fit under the dining room chair? Great! Now, how about your little plastic chair?’
The options are endless. Talking a child through the above exercises, develops a mathematical language: a language to talk about maths. Maths doesn’t need to be all calculus and algebra – at least not before children enter the formal teaching environment. After that, Master Maths is here to help.