The Importance Of Nurturing Early Numeracy Skills In Our Children
Childhood mathematics skills are predictive of later mathematics learning and achievement. Children who start ahead in mathematics generally stay ahead, and children who start behind generally stay behind, making it obvious why the importance of nurturing early numeracy skills in our children clear.
Yet many parents are less confident about teaching their children early numeracy skills compared to literacy. Many are unsure about what their child could, or should learn, and how to help them learn. Some parents have a negative attitude towards mathematics from their own childhood experiences or don’t think their children will be interested in it.
Introducing preschoolers to mathematical concepts may seem like a daunting task, but it’s far easier to do than many parents think. Parents don’t have to dust off the abacus or times table chart to build their child’s numeracy skills. Our home and day-to-day activities are bursting with opportunities to engage children in mathematics in ways that are fun and relevant.
Activities such as sorting laundry, measuring ingredients when cooking and counting toys when tidying up for example, all help foster foundational mathematics in children (see the list below for more ideas).
It’s really important to make these activities fun so that children can develop positive attitudes towards mathematics. Seeing math as stimulating, useful and fun is key to their ongoing interest.
An early year’s numeracy program created by The Smith Family called Let’s Count is helping three to five year olds in disadvantaged communities improve their mathematical skills and confidence to prepare them for school.
Let’s Count gives young children early exposure to mathematics, including counting, measurement, patterns and spatial awareness. The program includes training, support and learning resources for families and early childhood educators.
The results of a three-year evaluation released this week by The Smith Family – Strengthening early numeracy learning: The Let’s Count program – shows its program has significantly boosted the mathematical skills of children who participated. It also showed that parents and early childhood educators who participated were more able and confident to support the mathematical learning of their children.
The program was piloted in 2011 and has now been rolled out to almost 8,500 young children, 4,500 parents and more than 300 early childhood educators across 17 Australian communities.
Having proven the effectiveness of Let’s Count, there is a great opportunity here for governments, corporates, philanthropy and educators to boost the reach of the program.
Need some inspiration to start fostering your child’s numeracy skills at home? Here are some ideas!
- Observe numbers and shapes in everyday situations: on street signs, in the park, at the supermarket. How many cars can you see? Are there more or fewer than before?
- Count steps as you’re going up stairs.
- Play outside with water or sand. Use scales and/or measuring containers of different sizes.
- Play with blocks and use the opportunity to point out the sizes and shapes, the number, or any patterns. Problem-solving can also be introduced through blocks by identifying the best ways to stop towers from toppling.
- Bath time offers the opportunity to observe volume and metrics using cups filled with water.
- Sorting the laundry is a chance to ask your toddler to help you sort socks into pairs, or count the number of t-shirts. Which pile of clothes is the tallest? Which is the shortest?
- When making lunch discuss with your child as you cut a sandwich into halves, quarters or thirds. How many pieces do you have now?
- Do a puzzle and point out sizes, shapes and colours. Where are the corners? How many are there?
- Use a tape measure to find a child’s height. How does their height compare with other members of the family? Who is the tallest and who is the shortest in the family?
- Bake together. What ingredients need to be measured; what is the order of ingredients? How many cupcakes are there? Should we make fewer large ones or more small ones?
Brought to you by The Smith Family