There are many well-researched ways to reduce math anxiety. But perhaps one of the best places to start is with prevention. If you want to get your children hooked on math, and unafraid of numbers than the best thing to do is talk to them about the subject as much as possible. So here is our guide to discussing our favorite topic with our favorite little people:
Chatting Numbers with A Baby (0-12 months)
Babies brains are like sponges and they are constantly absorbing new information (which is why you probably shouldn’t swear in front of them). Here are some things you can try to incorporate numbers into their lives:
- Count their fingers and toes.
- Read books that feature counting like “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.”
- When you read books in general try and vocalise mathematical concepts, like using a deep voice for someone who is big and a high-pitched voice for something little.
- Sing songs that feature counting like “Five Little Ducks” or “Once I Caught a Fish Alive.”
Counting with Toddlers (12 months – three years)
Toddlers are great with repetition and the more you talk numbers, the more routine counting becomes.
- When you are going for a walk count the trees, birds and kids at a playground. Also note house numbers and mailbox numbers.
- When you are making a phone call point out the digits that you need to reach daddy.
- Point out the speed limit on a road sign, explain that you are slowing down or speeding up.
- Talk about when things happen, eg we eat breakfast at seven in the morning and go to bed at seven at night.
- Ask your toddler to share (ha!) their food with you. Ask for one piece of their toast, or two of their grapes.
- Encourage your child to compare objects, like a big ball and a little ball.
- For the tidy child, line up their soft toys from smallest to largest.
Discussing Numbers with your preschooler (two-four years)
This is a great age to show your children that numbers are part of our everyday life. It’s also a good time to safely introduce them to basic arithmetic concepts without necessarily labelling them. Food is great for this.
- Compare two similar products at the supermarkets and explain why one is cheaper than the other, they don’t have to understand but just talking about it will make your child think.
- Show your child that you share an apple with them by cutting it in half, if you want to share it with them and their sibling you can cut it into thirds.
- Make something simple with your child, like pancakes. Measure out half cups of flour weigh butter etc. Show them what fractions look like when they are written down and what they look like in reality.
- Do some basic crafts. Cut out paper shapes and talk to them about how many sides triangles, hexagons, trapeziums have.
- Play games like dominoes, Snap and Uno. Keep it age appropriate, you don’t want your child to be intimidated as they are supposed to be having fun.
Before you send your child off to school, here are a few mathematical concepts that you can discuss with them throughout their early years.
- Amount: one, few, many, a lot, a little
- Distance: Far away, close, nearby
- Height: Tall, short, high and low
- Order: First, second, third, last
- Speed: Fast, slow, rapid
- Time: What time is it? 8am, 8pm etc.
- Weight: Light, heavy.
These principles come up daily and make learning math that little bit less scary by the time they get to class.
Marina Gomer is a journalist and mother of one. She lives with her family in Sydney, Australia.