Teaching Emerging Mathematicians

by beagooddad on July 7, 2008

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The other day Geetle and I were bumming around spending a lazy afternoon together. She randomly decided to tell me that 2 + 2 = 4. So of course, I started asking what 2 + 3 and 4 + 2, etc. were. She guessed wildly and eventually said she did not know how to add numbers.

So, I showed her. Just remember, all of you mathphobic people, teaching math to a 5 year old is not really rocket science…well, most 5 year olds at least. And the early kids get a basic understanding of math, the less likely they are to be intimidated in the classroom and therefore the better chance they have of being good at math.

For the steps below, I’ll use the 4 + 2 example.

Teaching Kids To Add With Their Fingers

  • Start with saying the equation – I said, “What is 4 + 2″ and let her guess an answer. It is always good to know the entire problem before starting to work on the actual math. Remember that when they get to story problems.
  • Start with the first number – If you tell Geetle a number, she can hold up that many fingers, so we started there. I said “Hold up 4 fingers” and she did.
  • Say what you are doing next – I explained we were going to add two more fingers and that I wanted her to keep the fingers she already had up and then starting with 1, add 2 more fingers. She left up her 4 fingers, raised one more and said one and then figured out on her own to add the second new finger by using her other hand.
  • Count what you have – I then asked her to count all the fingers that were up. She counted to six without any problems.
  • Repeat the original question – I then asked her what “4 + 2″ equaled, and she yelled out 6.

We went through this about 10 times before she started to look bored. By the end, I would just say “What is 3 + 3″ and she would do it all on her own.

Before we called it a day, I switched it up a bit and asked, “What is 1 + 3 + 2?” She did it effortlessly. I really think this last step is actually more important than it might sound. At 5 years old, kids can learn that 3 or 4 or even more numbers can be added together by just doing the addition 2 numbers at a time. I’m not sure where they actually teach that in grade school, but Geetle can already handle the concept and most problems in advanced math are really solved by breaking them down into smaller and smaller sections.

Maybe next time we’ll start working on subtraction.

Most parents spend hour after hour after hour working on language skills; speaking, reading and writing. How much time do you or did you spend teaching basic math skills before they started kindergarten? I really need to start spending more time on math around here.

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