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Teaching Math to Young Children- Rote learning vs. Meaningful Learning

When your child starts the preschool years suddenly there is pressure to teach the fundamentals; numbers, counting, shapes, patterns and so much more--all of it can be very overwhelming.

Often flashcards and number books are what parents invest in to teach these. However, this isn't the way children learn best. The most effective way to teach youngsters basic math concepts is through daily activities. Common rote (memorization through repetition) learning using tools like flashcards, number books or posters, have been found to not be effective as daily hands on interactions, because often children don't understand the reasoning behind these concepts. Meaningful learning through daily activities gives children a much deeper understanding of what they are learning.

Teaching math can be a simple part of daily family activities, like cooking, grocery shopping, getting ready for bed; any common activity can have a math aspect integrated into it.

Cooking with your child is a great way to teach one-to-one correspondence and measurement. "The recipe has 3 tablespoons of sugar, let's count them." Grocery shopping can easily integrate shapes and counting. "Oh, look I see this rectangle box, it has four corners and four sides." "Let's look at how much this cost. Do you see a number here?"

Even playing games can teach math. "Let's count to ten and then race to this fence." "How many dinosaurs do you have there? I have, one, two, three.." "You are stacking the square block on the rectangle block? Do they look different, how?"

These hands on experiences help solidify these concepts in a way that makes math fun and engaging, giving a firm foundation for more complex concepts.

Have fun and happy counting!

--Alison Dunn

Early Education Specialist

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