Learning Math through Playing

Children are natural mathematicians: They explore, analyze, compare, and contrast. A toddler proudly identifies her age by holding up two fingers. Later, she learns to count to 10. After that, she learns to count the change received after a special trip to the store.

Sadly, though, many older children experience difficulty learning math in the classroom. They often lose their confidence and avoid math altogether in higher education and adulthood.

Parents can help their children develop positive attitudes toward math and boost their math intelligence. They can do this in a variety of age-appropriate ways. Preschool children develop math skills through play. Placing toy cars in a line shows quantity; asking for as many cookies as a sibling gets demonstrates equality; knowing that one is taller than a friend applies the idea of ‘greater than.’

Classic toys such as building blocks teach children about geometric shapes. Board games like ‘Chutes and Ladders’ reinforce the concept of one-to-one correspondence (counting each object once). Connect-the-dot puzzles reward numerical sequencing by revealing a hidden picture. Jigsaw puzzles invite problem solving with shapes, sizes and colors.

Songs such as ‘One, Two, Buckle My Shoe,’ ‘This Old Man, He Played One’, and ‘Ten Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed’ help children practice their counting. A song such as ‘Bingo’ helps children explore rhythm when they leave out an additional letter each round.

Adults think about math abstractly (40 + 60 = 100), but young children understand math tangibly: **** is four. By using objects they can touch, count, and group, youngsters learn that numbers represent objects and that the number of objects can change by adding and subtracting.

Parents can increase a child’s comfort with math by engaging in mathematical conversations with the child in a casual way, by asking questions such as ‘Guess how many more miles to the supermarket?’ or ‘How much do you think this melon weighs?’ Card games also offer opportunities to enhance math skills in a fun and casual way.

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