Being good with numbers starts in infancy

2012-08-23 00:00

INTRODUCING your children to preschool maths at an early age will help them develop skills that will aid them not only in numeracy, but also in becoming confident and competent when tackling problems in life.

Till slips, phone numbers, addresses, counting, money, distance to the shops, height of a building and calculations — yes, maths is all around us. There is no denying that without numeracy, our world would — very literally — be a very cold and dark place in which to live.

We not only use numeracy to count that all our children are at the dinner table, but every time you write the date, exchange money for food, use electricity, make a phone call or have a birthday, numbers and calculations are being constantly used. Even the youngest child wants to know, “how many sleeps till …”.

Numeracy is an integral part of our humanness. It’s for this reason that preschool maths is of such vital importance.

Just as a child absorbs languages more easily while still very young, the same goes for numerical skills.

We often become so caught up in pre-reading and reading skills that we forget to consider numeracy and preschool maths development. Interestingly, many of these preschool math skills overlap with the preschool reading skills. So it would be worth your while to spend some time working on these pre-reading skills to help your young children excel in his or her preschool maths activities.

These are some of the pre-reading skills that will encourage and develop your child’s numeracy skills.

• Visual skills: discrimination, memory recall, sequential memory, consistency, analysis and synthesis.

• Auditory skills: discrimination, memory recall, sequential memory, analysis and synthesis.

• General skills: eye movement, patterns and sorting, spatial perception.

As you embark on helping your children develop their preschool math skills, it is vital that you view numerical understanding and number concept with a positive attitude to ensure that your children develop this attitude too.


• Joanne Madgwick is a parenting and educational consultant. Inquiries:


• Talk “number language” from day one. Instead of bombarding your baby with baby-babble, use real words and connect them to real concepts — such as touching your child’s toes when changing him or her, while saying: “Look at your 10 tiny toes.”

• The two little words “same” or “different” are such huge concepts for a little person to learn, and yet once they do, one sees their numerical understanding skyrocket. Therefore, spend time pointing out and asking your child to find objects that are the same and those that are different.

• Talk to your child throughout the day. One may say, “Oh, look it’s two o’clock, we are so late for lunch today.” Or, “Let’s cut your orange in half and share it with your brother.”

• Play card and board games like snap, memory games, games that require a dice, and others that require geometrical building, such as Lego.

• Calculate and count everything. How many people are on the bus? One more got on, so how many are there now? You had 10 sweets but you gave your brother four, so how many do you have left?

• Let your child use real money and let him or her help you shop.

• As they become older explain to your children, using Monopoly money, how a salary is earned and has to be divided up to pay different bills, and how it is therefore not infinitely available.

Once you are used to looking for opportunities to integrate preschool maths development into your daily routine, you’ll be amazed at all the numerical opportunities that arise and how many numerical skills your child is incidentally learning while having fun.

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