We are now one-third of the way through this series. This is a good time to reflect on and evaluate your progress with helping your pre-school child develop math skills. What strategies worked as you hoped? Have you encountered any problems? Do you still have a clear view of what you are trying to accomplish and why?
In the introductory article of this series we discussed the research finding that the critical years for learning logic and establishing a solid math foundation are ages 1 to 4. Equally startling, from continued studies, are results showing that a child's math skills at kindergarten entry are a better predictor of future academic success that are reading skills, social skills, or the ability to focus.
Read that again! A child's math skills at kindergarten entry are a better predictor of future academic success than even reading skills. This result is HUGE! I hope this fact brings into focus just how very important your efforts are for your child's future.
At this point you might be thinking that you should transfer the responsibility for math learning to an organized preschool, but I strongly caution you against this idea. Preschool, whether started at 3 or 4 years of age, can be beneficial, especially for social skills, and might become appropriate for your child. However, it misses those initial critical years for establishing a good math foundation. In addition, as this knowlegde of the importance of preschool math education becomes more widely known, more programs are being devised that rely too heavily on "seat work." Preschool children lack the motor skills and attention span to be successful in an all seat work environment. Sadly, in too many of these programs our very young children are losing their enthusiasm for learning. It is imperative that this NOT happen to your child!
Now might be a good time to re-read the second article in this series: 7 things You Must Always Do. Realize that these procedures and attitudes are important for all learning to occur. In fact, you have probably used most, if not all, of these as you have worked with your child's language skills. Realize, too, that most of the early math skills can be handled along with the early language skills. Learning to count – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, … –is the same skill as learning to say the alphabet – a, b, c, d, e, … Learning to write numerals can accompany learning to write alphabet letters. Your child's expanding vocabulary can and should include math vocabulary as well.
So far in this series, we have discussed helping your child master counting, number recognition, using number lines, focusing on "if-then" thinking, addition, subtraction, number families, even and odd numbers, and a quick look at some simple number patterns. Hopefully, you are taking advantage of "teachable moments" rather than trying to schedule learning sessions. Your routines, like trips to the store, fixing meals, play get-togethers, going to the park, bedtime reading, etc., provide many opportunities for learning to occur.
Let your child's interest and enthusiasm guide what you do, when you do it, and for how long . Frequently return to previously learned skills to check that their understanding is still present and correct. This will let you know if you need to re-teach a skill. Know that having to re-teach is a normal part of learning and does NOT indicate a failure on your part.
I am going to postpone articles introducing new math skills until after a few articles that will address some related issues, like the importance of reading to your child, fixing learned mistakes, task analysis, and learning styles, continue working with your child as you have been, always staying positive, keeping things fun, reinforcing success, and paying close attention to your child's body language and mood.
Points to remember with preschoolers:
- Children learn at their own pace. They will pick up some skills quickly while other skills will need repeated practice.
- Children need to be actively involved in their learning. They must DO things rather than watching and listening to you.
- Repetition is necessary for learning to occur. However, make certain that what is being repeated is correct . Practice only makes permanent. Only perfect practice makes perfect.
Keep up the good work with your preschooler! Never lose sight of just how important you are to future success.