I’ll be honest: I hate math. I’ve always hated math. I hated math when I was 4, and I hated math when I was 14. Now, I’m 24– and I still hate math. I’m a writer. You do the math.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the attitude that I want to pass on to my daughter, who is currently home-preschooled at age 3. Already, I see that she’s inherited my hatred of numbers of figures. She’ll gladly read, write, and rhyme, but she blows a fuze if you ask her to count to five. This is a problem that I’ll need to address before it develops into the same degree of math-phobia that
haunted my own school years.
Here are a few things that I’m doing to stimulate my preschooler’s interest in math. She doesn’t yet need to be solving quadratic equations, but I’m doing what I can to help her enjoy the world of numbers.
1. Play games. Preschoolers aren’t made to learn in a sit-down-and-shut-up classroom environment (and, debatable, older kids don’t learn very well this way, either). The best way to get your child to start enjoying math is to make a constant game of it. My daughter was delighted the other day when we had a surprise visit from the Easter Bunny. He left a trail of numbers 1 to 10 on our driveway in sidewalk chalk. If my daughter hopped on each number the correct number of times, then moved to the next one, she got “bunny treasure” (a handful of M&M’s) at the end. Of course, this springy outdoor treasure hunt was far more fun and effective than a day of flash cards.
2. Sing songs. One, two, three, four, five! Once I caught a fish alive! Act out this and other number games, using your fingers as counting tools. These songs and rhymes are as fun as they are educational. They’ve helped my daughter learn a few basic math skills, although it’s still hard for her to keep them in mind when we’re not singing a jaunty tune. Some other good options include “10 Little Monkeys” and “Roll Over.” Keep these songs upbeat and enthusiastic; try not to make them feel like a chore.
3. Have a math-themed sticker chart. This helped my daughter learn to use the potty and begin enjoying simple math. I made a sticker chart with digits 1 – 5, then informed her that the Easter Bunny–who is currently the most important authority figure in the world–requested that she poop in the potty five times. Each time she did so, we placed a sticker on her chart above the appropriate digit. The completed chart was exchanged for a new book. This and similar forms of motivation help to keep preschoolers interested. They’ll not only begin learning number identification, but also simple addition and subtraction. Try using a sticker chart as motivation for chores, bed time, self-care tasks, pottying or helpful behaviors.
4. Head for the printer. The internet is overflowing with preschool worksheets designed to teach numbers and simple math. These coloring pages, number-match sheets, connect-the-dot activities, and other fun activities all facilitate your preschooler”s interest in numbers, in a productive and enjoyable manner. Your local book store or education-supply store may also have workbooks with similar activities. For even more fun, try making your own–it’s not as hard as it sounds. Simply sketch a few numbers for your child to trace, along with basic illustrations of easy-to-count shapes.
5. Lighten up a little. No matter what you do, there’s no guarantee that your child will be a math wiz, or that your preschooler will actually learn to love math. She may very well be cut from the same mold as me–completely uninterested in anything pertaining to mathematics. While it is a good idea to encourage your preschooler to branch out her interests, it’s unwise to be forceful or overzealous. Ruling out a severe learning disability, she will inevitably learn to count to ten before the preschool stage is all said and done.
If you’re concerned about your child’s development in any area, talk to her pediatrician. Her primary health care provider can evaluate her to rule out an underlying learning disability,
hearing problem or sensory integration disorder.