Many may say that math is a concept only understood when a child enters kindergarten and grades to follow. As an educator for over 17 years, I would have to disagree. Children begin to learn early math skills while in a daycare and preschool setting. Early math skills refer to the basic concepts that a child learns during the first few years of life. You can often see them when the children are sorting out shapes, making lines of toys, or even stacking blocks. Believe it or not, those are all forms of early math skills. Therefore, when a child enters preschool, they already have some sense of math skills. Those skills just expand once they enter a formal setting.
When children enter formal learning settings, they often use early math skills in their daily routine and activities. The learned skills are the foundation that leads to the building of a “strong house of math skills.” Specific math skills could be learned and developed during snack time (adding and subtracting Goldfish crackers), sharing toys, or even exploring shapes around the room.
Here are some ways to teach those early math skills to preschoolers:
1. Using Manipulatives: The use of manipulatives will allow children to experience math concretely. They have a chance to see the physical change in addition and subtraction. The manipulatives will also serve as a physical illustration for math concepts.
2. Pictorial Models: When using pictorial models, the children are using visual representations of the concrete objects. This will help the students make a mental connection between the physical objects and the pictures that are represented.
3. Learning through play and exploration: The children can do a scavenger hunt in the classroom or while on the playground. During this hunt, the children can search for shapes or various numbers of objects. Once in the classroom, the children can compare and contrast items.
4. Hands-on activities: The children will get a chance to feel and touch what they are learning concretely before they move to abstract thinking and learning. The hands-on activities, such as bingo, guess the amount, or building models, will help increase math comprehension and retention.
The activities above are just an introduction to teaching early math skills to preschool students.
Teachers could take any activity and incorporate math into it. You may choose the calendar time, morning meeting, or even lining up for the restroom. However, you decide to incorporate math, remember you are building a strong foundation on what other grade levels will stand on!! So let the learning begin!!