Instilling a Love of Math in Young Children

Instilling a Love of Math in Young Children

We are our children's first teachers. When we begin teaching them early and with enthusiasm, we have a tremendous amount of influence over their love of learning. And, it's a love of learning, just as much as intellectual capacity, that will ultimately make them good students.

We're teaching our children every day -- sometimes without even knowing it -- and our young children are eager to learn. One of the best things we can do is to take advantage of that eagerness, and make learning fun.

Do you want to help your kids learn math skills and love math before they begin kindergarten or first grade? It isn't difficult, and you're probably already doing some things that are contributing to a good math foundation.

Here are some specific things you can do at home with your children, beginning as early as age two to help instill a love of math, and ensure that your children are ahead of the game when they begin formal education. We're not talking about formal math lessons, but rather incorporating math into your everyday activities.

- Count everything. Children can begin learning to count by age two. When you play with them, count the toys, count the number of fingers, toes and feet on the dolls, count the number of stripes on the ball, etc. You can never count with them too much.

- Play games that incorporate math. Games like Candy Land and Chutes and Ladders are favorites of young children. Board games are especially good for toddlers because they teach social concepts, like taking turns, along with language and math concepts. There are also many websites with math games that are appropriate for children as young as two years old. Check out PBS for pattern and matching games or MathBlaster for math games for all ages.

- Get in the kitchen. There are many math concepts that can be taught while preparing meals. Children as young as two can set the table, counting out the right number of plates, forks, etc. for the correct number of diners. They can also fill up cups for you and empty them into pots and pans to help illustrate the concepts of empty and full. Later on, using measuring cups and spoons is a great way to teach measurement, volume and addition.

- Talk about shapes. Learning shapes will be your child's first introduction into geometry. Your child's toys and the items in your household come in all shapes and sizes. Use these items in everyday conversation to introduce circles, squares, rectangles and triangles. Sort objects into shapes, and into sizes, as well, to teach concepts of large and small.

First time moms and dads have to learn to think a little differently when they begin teaching their children. Simple things that we take absolutely for granted are completely unknown to our children, and present great learning opportunities.

Talk to your children all the time about the world around them. These conversations and demonstrations will help you to understand how much they can learn at each stage of life, and will help them to grasp many different concepts, from math to nature to language, all without a single formal lesson.

The author is a big fan of starting math education early and works for an online algebra tutor.

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