When I was in school, math related subjects were the hardest for me to understand. In adulthood, it’s become clear that not doing well with math limited my educational and career paths. Math is the only universal language, and I could have made it further had it come easier to me.
As a parent, I am determined to combat math stigma by doing everything I can to help my son avoid the challenges I had with math. Since he’s not quite two, it’s a little early to start working on applying some of these principles, but I know it will benefit him when he starts school. A love for numbers can literally take him to the moon and back, so we’re introducing numbers to him at an early age.
Math is a tough subject for many people. One of the easiest ways to improve children’s interest in math is to start early and show them that math can be fun. Below, I’ve written about how we are introducing our toddler to numbers.
Before we worked on counting, we had to work to say the names of the numbers. For example, my son may not be able to count to 21, but he is pretty familiar with the numbers the number two and the number one.
By spending time identifying numbers, you can help your child recognize the number, and set a solid foundation for counting. Even if they can’t say the numbers back to you, they'll remember them from the regular exposure.
Say and repeat
Not long after I started taking the time to point out numbers, my son began trying to repeat what he heard. Now, much of our number practice involves me saying a number out loud and asking him to repeat it.
When your child is in the very early stages of speech, like mine is, they may not say everything clearly, but you’re adding to their math foundation. This can be done in a variety of ways. You can do this verbally, with your hands, or with flashcards.
The journey to counting is a gradual process. It starts with identifying and develops from there. You can start counting shortly after they learn to say and repeat words. I do my best to have my son count whatever we can. Is he getting several carrots for lunch? We count them as we eat. Are we trying to have fun with friends? We count them the people we’re playing with. Everything is an opportunity to count.
As your child gets older, they'll start to remember more about the conversations you have had with numbers. I found that after a few months of practice, my son could count to five.
Protip: Songs make learning much easier.
Once numbers have been identified, and we have started counting, we can practice writing the numbers we’ve started talking about. This is very helpful because it allows children to practice handwriting along with an increasing understanding of numbers.
Again, the goal is not for them to write correctly – it’s to introduce them to the concept. Because this is a lot more challenging, we practice writing numbers less often than the other activities.
I don’t want to put a ton of pressure on my son to learn the numbers. These early stages are about introduction, not perfection. It is possible that my son will not grow up to like math and numbers, and if that is true, that’s okay. As parents, our job is to make various life transitions as smooth as possible. The rest is up to him.
In the meantime, I will continue to say numbers in hopes that he can guess what comes next. I’m proud of him either way.
About the author:
Rochaun Meadows-Fernandez is a writer who specializes in sociology, health, and parenting. Her work has appeared in Healthline, Yes! Magazine, HuffPost, Allure, and many other publications. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter or check out her website.