Building a solid math foundation should start early
Infants and toddlers will benefit from exposure to math during every day interactions, including math talk, with trusted adults.
Many adults did not enjoy math classes when they were in school and probably still don’t. When you ask a group of people if they enjoy math, a typical response would be, “No, I am not good at math.” However, when we think about our daily lives, we do math in a variety of ways several times a day. First thing in the morning you have probably measured the cream for your coffee, turned off your alarm clock, estimated how much longer you would be able to stay in bed and possibly added or subtracted the miles per hour you were going from the posted speed limit on your way to work. Many adults use math without thinking much about it, but also cringe at the idea of completing a math equation.
It is important we start at a very early age to incorporate a foundation for future math learning so children do not struggle when they are taught geometry, algebra and calculus in future math classes. Children develop math concepts and skills very early in life. They do this through early experiences with a trusted adult.
Often, throughout the day, there are wonderful opportunities to expose infants and toddlers to the idea of math. The key is to do it naturally and consistently so they are beginning to understand how math affects their lives. The next five articles in this series will discuss the five basic math concepts that can be woven into our conversations and interactions with young children.
Remember to use math talk throughout the day. Children, even the young ones, are listening to you. Choose words that will make a difference. The more math talk adults use, the better chance infants and toddlers have to build a positive attitude towards math in general. Make math talk a routine for you and your child. It can be done while changing a diaper, making a snack, driving in the car, bath time and walks around the neighborhood. It can be helpful to make a list of words and post them in a visible location so you can remember to use them throughout the day.
Other resources from the National Association for the Education of Young Children: