Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Math is Everywhere – and it's Fun!

Whether professional educators or not, a child's parents are his first and most important teachers.

Young children take pride and have fun doing practically anything that earns them a big smile and lavish love and approval from parents. We teach our kids by our reactions what is good and what isn't; they watch our every move for help in sussing out the ever-new world around them.

One of the most important things to show your young child is that math is everywhere, and it's fun!

After learning to recite number names (one, two, three, four ...), toddlers can be taught to count objects by touching them as they deliberately recite the number names, in order, till they get to the last object.

Suddenly, a world of countable objects opens up! Socks can be counted while doing laundry. Stairs can be counted even and odd while a child ascends or descends with Mom or Dad. Toes and noses can be counted. Apples in the fruit bowl can be counted. So can petals on a flower, flowers in a vase, and vases in a cupboard.

Geometry, too, is all around us. Straight lines and curves dominate a child's landscape. Rectangles abound. So do circles. Triangles are harder to find, but all the more treasured for their rarity when they do show up. Pots and pans are small, smaller, smallest, big, bigger, biggest. Patterns on kitchen tiles can be described ("White, blue, white, ...").

Until children reach first grade, at-home learning is ALL about fun (then, till third grade, it's almost all about fun). It's not about accomplishing, or milestones, or checklists, or any of that. Parents should focus entirely on making daily math time, reading time, and writing/drawing time a fun family activity that includes plenty of praise, love, and laughs. There'll be lots of time later to focus on results and home-work.

To keep the emphasis on fun, structured times should be quite short when teaching preschoolers at home: a few minutes is fine, 5-10 minutes max. Try to find multiple opportunities throughout the day to improvise 5-second learning tasks that children can easily accomplish successfully ("How many chairs at that table? Can you find two blue sweaters?"). Quit early, and leave them wanting more!

The most effective learning happens when both students and teachers are enjoying themselves. At first, and for quite some time, it's nothing but home-play, with success measured in giggles, smiles, hugs, and high-5's.


Copyright © 2006-present: Christopher R. Borland. All rights reserved.