A wonderful thing is happening in our education system now around Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education. But how do we start our children on the path to numeracy and being a good consumer of the numbers and statistics that our part of our daily lives?
As a former research methods and statistics professor, I think about this quite a bit. As a parent of young children – ranging from Pre-K to late-elementary – I also think about how to translate a complicated world of numbers and facts and figures to children with varying strengths and interests in learning math. And as a person consumed with the idea of helping children become thoughtful consumers of the world around them, I want to find ways for kids to see the value in math as a life skill.
So, what to do to make ordinary math extraordinary? Here are some simple tips for children aged 2 through 10:
Pre-K Children (2-5): Young children are curious about numbers and love to group and sort. They want to learn about numbers and groups, write them, and understand how numbers are part of their daily lives. With my youngest kids, we spend a good deal of time encouraging them to write numbers, but to make it practical: look at a digital clock and copy the numbers down. Use great apps to learn number skills in different contexts. Encourage children to count and sort objects as you take them out or put them away. And ask children, when going to the grocery store or on a drive, to spot and name numbers.
Young School Aged (5-7): Number literacy is cumulative: to learn a higher-order skill, a child has to master more basic skills such as number recognition, grouping, and order. With my young school-aged children, I build on these basic skills by asking them to do simple arithmetic with the clock: “It’s 10:45 now and we will leave the house when the clock says 11:10. How many minutes is that?” We also do simple super-market math: “How much do three pounds of bananas cost?” And in the car, “Grandma’s house is 176 miles away from our house and we’ve driven 45 miles. How much further do we have to go? How long will that take, do you think?”
Advanced Elementary (7-10) At this point, children should be interested in operations and even be capable of basic “fill in the blank,” algebra-like thinking. For my older daughter and son, we simply build on the Young School Age ideas above. This includes calculating rate when we’re driving or fuel mileage. It also includes estimating grocery bills, handling money and conducting transactions themselves (and making sure they get the right change), managing savings accounts, and being responsible for calculating time until we need to meet them and expectations around that. We also are more intentional about introducing statistics: “What percentage of your milk is gone, would you say?” or (for a son and daughter who are involved with archery and BBGun shooting through 4H), “You shot 63 today, 67 last week, and 39 the week before. What is your average score over the three weeks?”
All of these approaches – regardless of your child’s age – are practical and non-confrontational ways to teach everyday math that matters. They help make ordinary math an extraordinary set of skills that empower your child and help them better assess the numbers all around them. And they help us, as parents, ensure that our children can be numerically literate in a world that increasingly demands – and should – an understanding of facts that only math can produce.
The key is good foundations for math and at Montessorium, we love helping set those foundations with some of our apps. If you’re interested in giving your young child the gift of Math, with a Montessori foundation, stop by and check out our app Intro to Math on the App Store!
About the Author
Bill Anderson is a father of 4 who shares his experiences about parenting and life with Guidepost Parent.
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