Most children develop an understanding of maths at a young age. Addition, subtraction, and counting can be learned through everyday interactions. Toddlers use early maths in their daily activities and play. The knowledge they gain helps them get ready for lessons taught in schools.
Early maths does not mean teaching the children how to use a calculator. Simple activities such as counting the steps as you go up and down the stairs can provide children with a jumpstart on the formal math lessons they would receive in school.
What is early maths?
There are several early math skills that children can learn that form the foundation towards advanced knowledge. Nannies can help kids to develop their mathematical understanding by conducting activities while keeping the following in mind:
The most basic example of number sense is counting forward. This is the first skill that young children will learn. Nannies can encourage young kids to start learning to count by incorporating it in their daily activities, such as going down the stairs and counting the steps.
The second skill children should learn is representation. It is the ability to relate numbers with real-life objects, words, or pictures. Teaching children to set up the table before a meal allows them to correlate the number of plates and the number of people that are going to eat.
Later on, early math skills would pave the way for solving more complex problems. Children could use their past experiences in finding the solution to a problem they encounter. Playtime activities could also teach problem-solving by encouraging a child to see more than one way to solve a question.
Why is early math important?
Giving children the skills they need to count is not the only benefit of early maths. It also provides young kids with the knowledge they would need to use as they grow older. Teaching early maths at a young age is even more beneficial and helps children have an easier time transitioning to formal schooling.
Having a strong foundation in early maths also paves the way for learning more advanced mathematical theories and problems. Proper education of math foundations allows children to understand concepts and why they are essential.
Studies show that introducing math at an early age can predict later academic achievement. It also develops a child’s spatial awareness and teach them how to use and understand shapes.
Activities to support early maths
There are many activities and principles in teaching children early years maths. Parents and childcare workers can use some of these concepts to guide young kids in understanding basic mathematical principles and ideas. We partnered with Rhian from “Nanny World” to bring you four easy and engaging activities to support your child’s early math development.
Counting and hearing counting every day is crucial in developing a child’s early math skills. Encourage them to count forwards first and then backwards. A simple way to achieve this is to incorporate counting into everyday tasks, such as:
The list could go on and is essentially a list comprising of opportunities that arise to count - seize the opportunity. The more they count, the more they will be comfortable with the concept of number. As they become more confident counting from 0, a step further is to begin counting on from a different number.
Once your little one has started to grasp the concept of counting by sequential order, they will begin to count a group of objects. This may seem like a similar tip to the one above, but it is different in that it is mainly independent counting and is essential your little one is pointing, touching, or moving each object as they count (mostly independently).
The picture above is an activity that supports this side of early counting and number. Simply draw some ladybird beetle and put a number underneath corresponding to the number of spots that ladybird needs. The activity encourages children to count the spots as they put them on, recognising when to stop. This activity could use any picture that your little one is interested in.
Another activity to support this mathematical development is to use Lego or any building blocks you have at home and number cards. Ask your little one to pick a number card and build a tower corresponding to that number.
Both of these activities give the little ones visual representations of the numbers and could be taken a step further to ordering numbers from smallest to biggest, further consolidating their understanding of number.
Subitizing is the ability to look at a group of objects and know how many are there without counting them (e.g. holding up your hand and knowing that is five). This is another vital skill as it supports a higher level of maths as they develop. Many different activities can support this side of number and counting.
The first is to play copious amounts of board games, the more the children see the array of dots on a dice, the more they will begin to recognise the number and subitise. Board games also link back to correspondence as children are asked to roll the dice and count whilst they move their object.
One of the Rhian’s favourite activity is to use numicon. Numicon is a system of flat plastic shapes with holes in it that represents numbers. They are a good stepping stone to subitising as they come in different colours. The activity encourages children to collect some Numicon and place them in a bag. Have your little one then pick out a Numicon and match it to a number card.
Addition is a very different concept for children to grasp, but there are some very easy fun activities you can do with your little one to start the understanding of this concept, without having a written sum.
A simple activity you can do is to get a toy your little one likes to play with and something you have multiples of. It could be play food, toy cars, or even blocks.
Start an imaginative play activity with the children by saying “Dolly would like four cakes, can you give her four cakes?” Nannies can then count the items together with their children.
After counting, you can introduce addition by asking for more items and asking the little one to count how many their dolly has now in a pile. This exposes your children to the language they will hear when at school and the concept of what happens when we add more.
Every child is different, which means some may grasp mathematical concepts slower than others. However, always remember to be patient and go with what your child is comfortable with. Most importantly, have fun.
If you're looking for more activities to support your child's learning, visit expert Rhian on Instagram at @nanny.world!