As was noted in the previous article, age requirement for beginning mathematics with your child will be depended upon a few things: 1) your readiness to come up with creative ways to teach and command attention and; 2) your willingness to exercise patience and a loving attitude. Early childhood learning, whether its mathematics or reading, works best when abilities are allowed to unfold naturally and isn’t hampered by the pressure of expectations one way or the other.

Below are practical tips for preparing your child’s mind for basic mathematics. These exercises can work well with preschoolers as early as three. However, a child a little younger can also be instructed if the child demonstrates proficiency with the 1 – 10 counting sequence and exhibits an eagerness as well as a quickness for learning. It is essential to utilize good teaching practices particularly for children this age for optimal success.

Institute a routine to impress upon the child that these sessions will indeed become a part of his/her day. All in all, let your intention be to make this an exciting time to begin your child on a productive journey of learning experiences.

Tips for early preparation conducive for creating junior mathematicians:

o Build upon toddler activities of counting using fingers 1-10 by purchasing computer programs, DVDs, workbooks for toddlers – ages 2.5 through 4.

o Using other objects in your environment to count: apples, oranges, toys, etc. During car trips, count the number of a particular color of cars. Count the number of seconds between green and red lights. Do this throughout the day so that it becomes a habit! If the child is not receptive, (ill or temperamental) do not attempt to engage him/her. Remember to associate learning with the good feelings of fun and enthusiasm.

o After they have mastered counting 1 – 10 and are able to do it with ease, make a first attempt at teaching basic addition.

o Introduce basic addition as a new game! Grab a total of 4 oranges (or apples, etc.). Initially keep the sums to numbers under 5.

o Start with one orange. Place it in front of the child and ask him/her how many oranges he/she sees. Confirm pleasantly that it is ONE orange.

o Now grab another orange and state clearly that you will now add another orange. Place it a little apart from the first orange and then ask how many oranges are there? If the answer is TWO oranges – state that he/she is correct and reward with praise. Be sure to give hugs and kisses.

o Here is the important part of the exercise. Slowly enunciate how 1 orange PLUS 1 more orange equals 2 oranges! Get them to comprehend the concept – slowly, calmly and patiently. Never add a negative tone. If you do, the exercise becomes heavy and undesirable; possibly sabotaging a constructive attitude needed for future proficiency in math.

o Add additional oranges (or other fun objects) as learning capacity expands, gradually moving up to sums equal to five.

When complete mastery of basic addition has occurred now would be a good time to introduce workbooks (and other instructional tools) featuring basic addition. Once the child gives cues that he/she is ready to move on, subtraction beginning with differences under 5, could be a next step.

Just a few more suggestions, if the child has a hard time understanding the concept behind the word PLUS use a substitute like “add ___ more” and so on. The bottom line is to ensure that a basic understanding of addition takes place. Again, keep it fresh and fun by “adding” all kinds of things around the house. Ensure that it becomes a habit by doing it daily! Stop before the child tires of the “game” simply because it creates eagerness.

Research a good kindergarten curriculum to determine which concept to tackle next and don’t hinder with superficial (i.e. age-appropriate curriculums) limits, especially if he/she is content and capable of learning it.

Bear in mind that with early childhood education, especially mathematics – consistency and progression is key!