Thinking about maths....
As adults, when we think of maths, we tend to think of learning times tables or formulas or equations at school. But maths is so much broader than this, and as parents and carers there is a lot we can do to help our small children learn the basics, without it being “teaching” or “home schooling” as such.
Introducing these building blocks can simply be part of everyday conversations, and this way of learning is fundamental to the Early Years Framework, which is the “curriculm” used by Early Years settings to ensure all children are supported to learn skills and concepts at the right stage in their development.
Here are some simple ideas to build “maths” into the everyday life of your small people.
Counting is crucial. You can count steps up and down the stairs, items on a plate of food, and really any objects round the house. Try counting how many cars there are, how many cups – anything which your child is interested in. If they like collecting sticks, rocks and other treasures while out on a walk, talk about how many they are. Even young toddlers will start to copy you and learn the sequence of the words. 1:1 correspondence is the idea that each number relates to one item only, which sounds obvious to adults but it takes a lot of practice to understand this at first.
You can also compare different groups or objects. Talking about more and less, bigger and smaller, taller and shorter and other comparisons are really valuable to start children thinking about the different ways to describe things.
Looking for and noticing numbers in your environment is a great way to introduce the written numerals – house numbers as you walk along a road (Red Lion Lane is great for this as the numbers are right by you), numbers on registration plates of cars, on clocks, on packets of food. Perhaps you could set a challenge to look for numbers in a room in the house.
Another important area of maths is shape – two dimensional shapes like square, circle, triangle, rectangle, and for older children, three dimensional shapes such as cube, sphere, cuboid. Shapes are all around us, even if we don’t generally notice them as that. Try pointing these out wherever you see them, or challenging children to spot 3 triangles or circles, for example.
The pressure on parents to “teach” children while schools and early years settings have been closed due to Covid-19 has made many people feel they should be using worksheets and apps, but using your child’s interests to bring maths concepts into everyday life will be far more effective and less stressful, especially for small children.