As a former math teacher, I often wondered what happened to make kids stop liking numbers by the time they arrived in high school. It has been determined the main reason for this is children are all too often made to feel inadequate in classrooms once mathematics is introduced in a school setting.
Most children begin to understand the concept of numbers around the age of 3. In particular, young children like to count items, rearrange them, count them again and get excited about getting the same answer each time. To continue this pattern of excitement, easy puzzles, games and patterns are all a child needs. These also provide wonderful times for parent-child quality time together.
Author Jo Boaler, a former Stanford University mathematics professor, offers more advice to parents and teachers in her book What’s Math Got to Do with It? How Parents and Teachers Can Help Children Learn to Love Their Least Favorite Subject. In this book, Boaler outlines solutions that can change a student’s perspective on math, including classroom approaches, essential study strategies and advice for parents.
Some easy math activities suggested by Boaler for early learning include:
- Building blocks, interlocking cubes, or kits for making objects. These help develop spatial reasoning, a foundation for mathematical understanding.
- Jigsaw puzzles, Rubik’s cubes and anything else that involves moving, rotating or fitting objects together will also help develop spatial reasoning.
- Exploring mathematically interesting items like house numbers, fence posts and patterns in nature.
- Reading books with a mathematical undertone, such as The Father Who Had 10 Children, by Benedicte Guettier.
- Learning about shapes and addition together with fun, early learning printables.
- Allow your child to watch good TV shows which promote the more exciting side of math. (There are many children’s shows on Disney, Jr., Disney and Nickelodeon which meet this criterion.)
Fostering a love affair with math at an early age can give children a better chance of being excited about the subject – thus making it easier to learn – throughout their school years.