We often talk about “kindergarten readiness” but what about “math readiness”? The answer is: start early! We “officially” started a Montessori Math curriculum with Adrian when he was two years old! I am a strong believer that I would rather be early than late. If the material is introduced too early, a child would simply show no interest and you, as an educator, would simply come back to it later. On the other hand, if the material is introduced too late, the sensitive window of opportunity is closed forever and the chance for a seemingness, natural and effortless absorption of information is now gone!
Here are the basic math strategies you can incorporate, starting at age two and continuing to the kindergarten age. Remember, repetition is the key to mastery.
Math strategies in a nutshell:
- ona NUMERAL is a written symbol we, humans, decided to represent a particular quantity
- COUNTERS, also called manipulatives, are actual quantity (in a Montessori Math curriculum, a child is first introduced to number rods and spindles, which are quite substantial, so the child very concretely feels that one is small and ten is big). We are also using Montessori Checker Board Beads but you can easily make them with pipe cleaners and pony beads (see details on how to make them here)
- FINGERS work great for visual learners who will benefit by watching you fold fingers on a glove. To make it, we simply filled a surgical glove with red hydrogels
- TALLY MARKS help children visualize the numbers 6 through 10 as a group of 5, plus the additional ones (see details here)
- draw a PICTURE, which will be particularly helpful with addition when a child can visually see a picture of two groups or two addends
- TEN-FRAME helps children build counting and subitizing abilities while expanding spatial awareness. Here, I am using a recycled egg carton, having cut two egg- compartments, leaving just ten and rainbow pom poms. Also, play an approximation game: while the child is not looking, fill your egg carton with a random number of counters (one per compartment) and ask your child to tell you the total number without actually counting. What a child is practicing it subitizing that is being able to instantly recognize, without counting, the number of objects present in a small group. Helping children pick up this skill at a young age will allow them more quickly develop mental math strategies in the future.
- NUMBER LINE: start at one and count up. Once the child finds the number on a line, remind your child to go back to number one and count up again. Ask questions: “One more than 4 is? Which number comes after four? One, two, three, four, five! Five! You are right! Although you might think this is repetitive, this is exactly what your little one need. Repetition leads to mastery as children continuously need to hear your words out loud so that they can develop a strong understanding of quantity.
- SPELL out the number (offer your child 4 yo+ movable alphabet to spell numbers’ names, also offer your child to read the word as it is spelled). This is a great way to gain a better understanding that a group of objects is represented by a number name.
A last note, counting to ten may come at different ages, and just because your child can count to ten, does not mean that s/he actually understands what ten really means. A child might learn to count just like a heart-learned poem, without really grasping the correlation of numeral to quantity. Without a solid understanding of how a group of ten is made, what addends constitute it and how to take that number apart and put it back up again, children are not truly mastering mathematical concepts. Granted, in the progression of learning numbers, children first learn to count (in other words memorizing a sequence of numbers, a lot of times they do out loud.) However, the next step is very important: it is learning one-to-one correspondence or in other words numeral-to-quantity association, which means your child is matching only one number with one group of objects (for example matching number 5 with five baby animals). That is why we encourage our children to touch each object as they count it. Understanding the concept of quantity naturally leads to understanding the concept of more and less than.
Your child is learning by doing. So, pick a number, count it, draw it, fold fingers on a glove, fill the egg carton ten-frame, find it on a number line, etc. Remember, repetition leads to mastery!
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