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What is "Early Math" and How Does it Help Your Preschooler?

by Makinya Ward on July 19, 2016
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As soon as many adults hear the word “math,” they cringe. This is unfortunate, because the entire modern world works from a foundation of mathematics. Teaching our preschool children to feel comfortable with math concepts is a valuable gift, and at Kids Konnect, we promote mathematics through a concept called Early Math.

shutterstock_422543743.jpgKey Concepts

The American Mathematical Society, a group that encourages mathematical research and education, points out that Early Math focuses on math concepts, not procedural math (long division, written subtraction problems, proofs and the like). This means preschoolers are introduced, through active learning, to core tenets of all mathematics, as outlined at the Erikson Institute’s Early Math Collaborative:

  • Spatial relationships
  • Sets
  • Patterns
  • Measurement
  • Number sense
  • Shape
  • Data analysis
  • Number operations

What Early Math Looks Like

At Kids Konnect we are not asking three-year-olds to measure to the sixteenth of an inch with a wooden ruler. We ask general, mathematical questions through active investigations, like “Which wood block is wider than the purple block?” or “How many children in the group are equal in height to Sally?”

Sets and patterns lend themselves to preschoolers’ natural inclination to collect things. Outdoor time might include sorting rocks by size or placing leaves in arrays separate from those rocks.

Number operations and number sense do not mean pages of arithmetic problems for your preschooler. Early math tries to help children understand number concepts such as more, less, adding and subtracting. When a group of toy cars, for example, is sorted into equal numbers of red and blue cars, current research as outlined at Zero to Three tells us that children can and will understand the concept as dividing, a math operation, without having to formalize the steps.

How Parents Can Teach Early Math

Bryan Street, a math coach in Seattle, suggests ways parents can convey early math concepts to their own preschoolers:

  • Play dice and card games
  • Play sequential board games that require counting, like Chutes and Ladders, Sorry, and Trouble
  • Add math to reading — "How many Wild Things do you see with Max?" When reading the award-winning Eva and Sadie and the Worst Haircut Ever, ask, "Which sister is taller?" "Is your hair longer or shorter than Eva’s?"

How have you introduced mathematical concepts to your preschool child? At Kids Konnect we want to learn as much as we share. Please leave suggestions, questions or comments in the space below.

Topics: Child development, math activities