This title may put a lot of people off, sounds boring huh? Well I love maths, I love how it allows us to make sense of the world around us, to communicate ideas and concepts concisely and elegantly and I love the creativity needed to solve mathematical problems. My motivation behind this series of posts is to research, share and discuss how to help our little ones develop early maths skills that set them up for future success.
Why do I believe this is important?
I personally believe that developing maths skills helps children to develop their reasoning, problem solving, pattern spotting and ordering skills, it helps children to communicate accurately and if they are a maths geek like me find tremendous enjoyment in solving maths puzzles. But don’t just take my word for the benefits of early mathematical development, in a 2007 meta-analysis of 35, 000 preschool children across England, Canada and USA found that early maths skills were the strongest predictor for future success followed by reading and then attention skills.
My other driver is that I am very concerned about the mathematical education our children receive in the UK, in the 2015 PISA tests the UK ranked 27th for the mathematical achievement of the 15 year old students that sat the tests. My own experience of teaching has also lead me to be very worried about the mathematical education that Lizzie and her peers will receive. When I started teaching everyone in the department I worked in had a maths or engineering degree, by the time I left teaching I was the only one in my then department who had a maths degree and some members of the department didn’t even have A level maths.
How am I introducing mathematical concepts to Lizzie?
I am a great believer in young children learning through discovery and this is one of the key recommendations of psychologist Jerome Bruner, I also use his theory of the stages of representation. He believed that new concepts (regardless of the age of the learner) should be taught enactively (physical – the child manipulates objects), then iconically (the child is dealing with images and not manipulating them physically) and, finally, symbolically as ways of capturing experiences in the memory. For this reason I have not introduced numerals, which are symbols, yet to Lizzie as I don’t think she has a sound enough concept of number. For the majority of the time we play in the enactive stage, whether that is counting raisins, toys, pasta pieces, Lizzie physical experience the difference between two raisins and three raisins.
I find it very hard to find toys or books that I believe correctly support toddlers in developing their number sense, they all jump to the use of numerals straight away, even our beloved sorting pie uses numerals. So I have begun to develop some games and activities that I believe will help Lizzie to develop a sound sense of number and other mathematical concepts. Over the coming weeks I will share them with you and hopefully you will give me some new ideas to try.