Inspiring affection for mathematics from an early age is a gift that keeps on giving. All children have the capacity to practice and enjoy math; the trick is how we access it to encourage positive and meaningful experiences.
We know that students thrive when they can join the dots and connect the lessons with other subjects and see how they translate into everyday life. The good news is maths is rich with opportunity for storytelling and creativity.
Our top tips for encouraging a love of maths from an early age:
- Make it relevant.
Most children are more motivated when maths is connected to something they’re interested in. Makes sense! This also encourages children to notice, use and talk about maths as part of their own interests.
Caregivers can leverage their child’s most favourite thing be it toy cars, books or craft activities (beading, colouring, cutting), and build bite-sized maths discussions into the mix. This could be around patterns, shapes, sorting or counting.
Other ideas include:
- Get your hands dirty: using moulding clay or playdough to form numbers.
- Coloured block patterns: use LEGO, DUPLO or any other coloured blocks. Prepare some cards with colourful block combinations and get the children to reproduce them with their blocks.
- Straws and pom poms: one for the craft-loving kids. You’ll need some pom poms and straws. Ask the children to “suck up” some pom poms and place them in small containers labelled with numbers. The first person to have the correct number of pom poms in their container wins!
- Make it fun.
“Maths as play” is an effective, active learning approach at all levels, but especially valuable for young children. The fun also takes the sometimes-hard edge off “the lesson” and creates an environment where the whole family can bond and work together.
Anything that involves moving, rotating or fitting objects together helps to develop spatial reasoning and the foundations for mathematical understanding. This could be as simple as jigsaw puzzles, building blocks or interlocking cubes.
To level up your fun-maths ideas, try:
- Board games: snakes and ladders, naughts and crosses, bingo, matching card games (Snap).
- Smack the number game: you only need fly swatters and sticky notes! Prepare your sticky notes with various numbers on them; give the children a number and ask them to swat the correct one. High energy, a little competitive, and very fun.
- The Balloon Game: blow up some balloons and write numbers on each, then hide them around your house. Ask the children to find them and help them sort the balloons in numerical order.
- Make it every day.
Talk about maths: every day! Caregivers can look for opportunities in the day to incorporate maths discussions: from play to household tasks and all points in between and ask thoughtful maths questions in these moments.
Explore mathematically interesting items on a walk around your neighbourhood: house numbers, signs, bus numbers, counting pickets on a fence or patterns in nature. Get the children involved (safely) in cooking or baking by measuring or adding ingredients; ask them to help sort socks in the laundry; or count out cutlery.
More ideas include:
- Number of the week: see how many times you can spot this number – keep a tally and the winner at the end of the week gets a prize.
- Pouring and comparing: practice pouring rice, beans/lentils (dried) or even beads into containers of differing sizes. Asking the children to sort them from biggest to smallest, or vice versa.
- Sorting toys: smallest to largest, by colour or type.
- Sing songs! Counting songs or making your own is also a simple and effective way to incorporate maths into your day.
Students thrive when they can see and feel the connection between lessons and reality. Creating meaningful and positive experiences with mathematics from a young age can set children up for success!
ORIGO Education’s early learners’ products aims to provide teachers with a variety of activities that support purposeful play with specific mathematic learning outcomes in mind. Learn more about our Early Learning Years Package here.