Introducing mathematical concepts in early childhood helps children develop countless skills such as critical thinking, logical and spatial intelligence. In addition, mathematical reasoning creates the foundation of success during school years and the development of key abilities in adult life. But maths means more than counting or memorizing formulas. When parents help their children explore mathematical concepts on a daily basis – at home, while shopping, in the park or at the playground – they actually help them to start thinking like curious, creative little mathematicians.
Children that enter nursery with poor math skills are likely to fall behind their peers in later years. Before going to school, children should: understand the concepts of size, shape and patterns; to be able to count verbally; recognize numbers; to be able to make comparisons of the larger / smaller, harder / easier type; to associate the number with the quantity that it represents.
It is proven that mathematical skills are a much better predictor of academic success than language skills. Make sure the children develop their mathematical thinking as they grow older. Read further about the development stages of mathematical intelligence according to age and how you can stimulate the child to reach his full potential.
Maths for babies
The first step towards learning mathematical concepts is when the child begins to explore the surrounding world. Babies begin to learn maths before they can even sit. Between 0-12 months, babies begin to notice differences in quantity, compare the shape and size of objects and begin to deduce the notion of cause and effect. Of course, at an early level of understanding. For example, if you move a toy, they know that it may produce a sound. Also, they can classify things (toys that make noise and toys that don’t) and begin to understand the relative size of things (the child is small, the parents are big).
1-2 years, the age at which mathematical concepts are associated with “how much”
Young children between the ages of 1-2 years are beginning to understand that numbers refer to “how much” and use their fingers to count. They also begin to recite the numbers, though not always in order. Associating numbers with a song helps them to deepen the information. Sing along with them and draw the numbers. Such simple activities ensure a pleasant learning process.
Also during this time, they begin to understand words that compare and measure things. For example, they understand the meaning of the term “faster”, they like to play with geometric shapes, to recognize and match them or to fill and empty containers. Make sure you create enough opportunities for them to do so.
To help them learn to count when you are surrounded by 3-4 people, you can stop and say: “I wonder, how many people are here?” Ask the child to count out loud and help him when he does not know how to continue. You can do the same exercise with apples in a bowl or when climbing stairs. Gradually increase the number of objects that the child has to count.
2-4 years, the period when the children begin to classify
After the age of 2 and up to 4 years, children begin to recognize shapes in the environment, sort the objects according to colour, shape, size or purpose, compare them and make weight classifications. To provide children with opportunities to practice mathematical thinking, mix different resources, such as figurines, colourful handkerchiefs, feathers, pasta, jelly, glitter, and let the child sort them through without giving any directions. This exercise will give you fascinating information about the child’s brain and its ability to learn.
2-4 years is also the period when children best absorb mathematical concepts, and counting up to 20 becomes easy. Puzzles are becoming their favourite, and they begin to better understand the concept of cause and effect. For example, children know that as they add blocks, the lego tower increases. Also, building with blocks is a great way to explore adding or subtracting. Start with a block and add another. Ask the child questions such as: “How many blocks are there in this tower? How many will we have if we add two? What if we remove one?”
Between 4-6 years, children recognize patterns and know what follows in a series
Between the ages of 4 and 6, children begin to understand the concept of time and days of the week, can write, can recognize numbers and use terms such as first, second, etc. At the age of 6, children recognize patterns and know what follows in a series, learn to count to 100, write and recognize numbers and shapes such as cubes or cylinders and learn to do simple mathematical calculations. These mathematical skills can be practised even at the dinner table. Ask the child to help arrange the meal by calculating how many forks are needed. Encourage him to count while placing each item on the table. You can ask them questions like: “You counted 6 forks. If Grandma and Grandpa come to the table, how many forks will we have at the end? ”Then ask him to think about how people will sit at the table. Who will be the first, second person and so on. At the age of 6, they can understand the relationship between numbers and how they can be used in practical situations.
7 years – the age at which children develop strong mathematical skills
Seven-year-olds often have a highly developed sense of numbers and are prepared to make calculations with a higher level of difficulty. They can also understand and decipher sophisticated models, and space challenges are no longer an issue. Spatial reasoning connects math to the physical world and includes skills such as reading maps. To practice these skills, you can organize a treasure hunt with your child. Creating and reading a map based on the immediate surrounding environment will help you translate a three-dimensional view into a plan. Hide an object and mark it on the map with a red X, so the child will look for it.
Also at the age of 7, the understanding of symmetry and the construction of 3D objects deepens. Lego pieces can be extremely useful in this process.
At school, the child will study adding, subtracting, multiplication, division and geometry. At home, you can nurture their understanding of maths through daily activities, simple math games and fun challenges. For example, learning about shapes sets the basis for understanding geometry. As the vocabulary of a seven-year-old child grows, so does his knowledge of maths. What you can do is encourage the child to use mathematical language, such as “rhombus” instead of “diamond” or “angles” instead of “corners”.
In the first 7 years, children discover the world around them, they are extremely curious, their brain develops rapidly and the information is easily absorbed. However, skill development needs to be done gradually. In order to effectively promote mathematical learning, it is important to know what concepts our child should learn according to age. We must not forget, however, that each child has his or her own rate of development, which may be faster or slower than that of other children. We cannot ask children to carry out a task and expect the same result from all. Each child is unique, which means that each child develops their own abilities at their own rate.