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Math Is (Not) Scary: The Importance of Math for Preschoolers

Math Is (Not) Scary: The Importance of Math for Preschoolers

Every person has a talent that comes naturally to them. But for a lot of people, mathematics is not one of them. 

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For many adults, the associations they have with math are negative: bad grades in school, not feeling like they understood a concept (like fractions or algebra), or needing a calculator for even basic equations. So when it’s time for children to start learning basic math, parents can start to feel panicky. 

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Take a deep breath and remember — your attitude toward math matters. Children notice when adults feel anxious about math. Even if it’s not your forte, having a good (or at least neutral) attitude toward math is important. 

To help, we’re taking the burden of coming up with a plan off your shoulders. Here are some very basic math skills you can help your kids learn that will set them up for a good relationship with math.

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Start with the Ending: The Goal of Preschool Math

Let’s start the conversation by defining the finish line. By the time they enter kindergarten, most schools want a child to:

  • Count from one to 10 (forward and backward).
  • Follow simple instructions like, “Show me the one red square,” or “Take away one blue crayon.”

The magic age for introducing math concepts to kids is 3 years old. Most human brains aren’t ready for things like addition and subtraction before then. Plus, most kids don’t have the language skills to understand things like math until that age. 

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There’s the bar. Now, let’s talk about how to get there.

Math Is Everywhere

One of the great things about math is that it’s all around us. If you’re looking for opportunities, it doesn’t take very much to talk about math with your preschooler.

  • Make a certain day of the week a “math day.” (If you love alliteration, shoot for Math Mondays.) 
    • Don’t think of these as days where you sit your preschooler down and complete a math worksheet. Instead, make this a day where you purposefully point out and work on math concepts with your preschooler. 
  • Count everything. 
    • Count the blueberries on their plate, the buttons on a shirt, or the cars driving by your house. 
    • And when it feels like you’re about to explode from counting things? Keep counting things. 
    • Don’t get TOO crazy with how high you count. Capping things at 10 is totally fine.
  • Games like hide and seek give kids the chance to hear someone count from 1 to 10. 
    • It’s also a great game to play when you want to introduce counting backward from 10 to 1. 
  • The ideas of “more” and “less” are the building blocks of addition and subtraction. 
    • Ask your kid which pile has more crayons and which one has less. 
    • Once you are confident they have a handle on that, introduce actual numbers. (“This one has 7, and this one has 5. Which one has more?”)
  • Math isn’t just about numbers! 
    • Shapes and measurement also play an important role in mathematics. 
    • Describe things in terms of their shape, and don’t be afraid to use 3-dimensional terms like “cube” and “pyramid” instead of the typical “square” and “triangle.”
    • Point out which things are taller, shorter, or the same height as your child. Give them a ruler to measure things, even when they don’t understand what an inch is. At the very least, it helps them understand that 3 is bigger than 2.
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Here are some more ideas for you to pick from when it comes to playing math games with your child. 

Your Goal

Your goal when talking about math with your preschooler should be, “I’m making life easier for my kid’s future teacher.” You’re laying a foundation that a teacher will build on later.

And remember to be compassionate with your child’s learning. The main goal of talking about math at a young age is to introduce concepts that they’ll learn more about later. 

If you’re concerned about your child’s progress in math, check out this article on ways you can help them out. 

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