Mathematics, a subject feared by most primary school students, as we constantly hear about how the Primary School Leaving Examination paper for Mathematics often leaves students crying while they exit every year. The quest to start learning mathematics earlier so that children can understand the concept better becomes a necessity to prepare them for this seemingly big hurdle. However, mathematics can actually be found all around us, so in learning mathematics, instead of cramming for it, maybe the better approach is to help children learn to enjoy knowing more about it and therefore, wanting to understand it. Making them feel good about the subject from a young age may help in their future studies of it. In this article, we will share some ways we could make learning about mathematics part of our everyday life.
If mathematics is a language, numbers are equivalent to the alphabet and it is as easily found as abc. It can be found in our phone numbers, our house unit numbers, even our identity can be represented by a string of numbers. So numbers can be seen as symbols to represent something. At an infant age, we probably aren’t trying to get them to learn how to spell or do mathematical operations but getting them to be familiar with numbers, how they sound, how they are represented by their numerals and linking them to how they are used in representation of our daily life. Counting out loud whenever the opportunity arises allows for infants to learn through your actions and as they try to mimic these actions, they will be counting numbers. For example, we can count the numbers as we are going up the lift. They are also able to see the numerals as you count.
Talking about the time of the day also brings in numbers and how it relates to our day and night. For preschoolers, you can also expose them to an analog clock or a watch and refer to it when you mention the time to them. There’s no need to explain the details of how to read it as the intention is not for them to learn that. The purpose is more of an introduction so that when they see it in primary level, it’s not something completely new to them. Therefore, even if it’s a digital clock and not an analog clock, you can still use it so they have a visual image of the time when it is mentioned. These constant exposure will then help prepare them when they learn about time at primary level. As they reach preschool, counting one to twenty will be an easy feat. You can then introduce a twist to it when counting is used in playing games. For example, in a hide and seek game where you count to twenty, instead of counting up from one to twenty, you could count backwards from twenty to one or count in multiples of two. Playing with numbers in the context of a game helps to build their sense of numbers.
Shapes and Patterns
Shapes are all around us and we can add these descriptive words to the furniture to give it more meaning in mentioning these words. Words of shapes can also be an adjective. For example, instead of just the table, we could say the rectangular or the round table. Pattern is an important building block in Mathematics. Understanding how patterns work helps children to see relationships and use these relationships in application. It develops important skills of critical thinking and logic. Therefore, it is essential to provide them with the opportunity to create these patterns on their own. For preschoolers, they will be able to start creating and building these patterns when left on their own with a variety of open-ended materials. Talk to them after they have created to ask them about what pattern they have created so that the thinking process of a pattern is being conveyed. Sorting is also a form of pattern. Another good thing is that patterns are everywhere. It may be deliberately created in a classroom setting but we can also easily find it in nature, art and everyday life. The repetition of our hours in a day, days of the week, months of the year is already a form of pattern. Tiles in a room or on a pathway could also make up tessellations and these tessellations itself is a form of pattern. Going outdoors into nature or visiting museums to see art and exhibitions can help in the discussion about patterns in a more relaxing and enjoyable setting.
With the advancement of technology and the convenience of cashless payment options, physical forms of money are less common. However, for children, these abstract forms do not help them in understanding the concept. Therefore, it is necessary to provide them with the physical cash and coins to help in their understanding. It may result in more inconveniences, but you could make it a once a week affair to deliberately use cash so that they can come in contact with it too. The concept of money itself is not just about learning how to count it but also about finances. When shopping, you can talk about the price with them so they have a gauge of the cost of these items. Involve them when you are using coins and notes to pay so they can be familiar, even for toddlers. Let them be the ones to make the payment, so they understand the concept of paying and getting a change back. Even for preschoolers, they can start learning the concept of saving up. All these experiences will help them in understanding the concept better when it is being taught in Primary level.
Mathematics may be a daunting subject but like all other subjects, it can also be an interesting subject when they learn to enjoy it. Exposing them to various topics in Mathematics can help them see how Mathematics is related to our daily life.
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