STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) is being pushed in K-12 education extensively due to the global economy increasingly becoming more high-tech. High paying careers in computer programming, engineering, skilled labor and other associated careers all require extensive knowledge of math specifically. To give our students the biggest possible advantage in being successful later on in life, it’s essential we introduce them to math during their preschool years.
Math concepts and skills taught to preschoolers are meant to serve as foundational knowledge they can take with them into elementary school. You may be wondering the following: why is it important that 3-5 year old children be introduced to math?
According to STEM Smart, math only gets 58 seconds of attention out of a normal 6 hour preschool or pre-kindergarten day. This is astounding, especially when we think about how much time is dedicated to literacy. Research even shows that preschool/pre-kindergarten math skills are just as important as literacy skills in predicting future academic success. In addition, Jie-Qi Chen, Ph.D., a child development specialist with the Erikson Institute argues that math is essential for preschoolers/pre-kindergartners because it is the language of logic. Don’t we want our our children fluent in logic? I think that answer is quite clear.
Additional Information on Why Teaching Math to Preschoolers is Important:
- “Tomorrow’s Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Workforce Starts with Early Education”
- “Preschoolers are Natural Mathematicians”
- “Mathematics in the Preschool”
Now that the importance of preschool math education has been proven, it is essential to discuss the best ways teachers can implement it effectively in the classroom.
The Do’s for Implementing Math in the Classroom:
- Utilize hands-on learning experiences to teach math. Make it fun!
- Discuss with parents how their child is progressing in their math skills. Explain to them the importance of having these skills, how you assess them and also how you work with their child to improve them. Having a partnership with parents in which both parties collaborate will enhance the effectiveness of your teaching methods!
- Explain to the children why math matters. Like learners of all ages, children want to know why what their learning matters. What will it allow them to do?
- Incorporate teaching math into your daily routine. Set aside time on a daily basis. Commit to it just as you commit to circle time or reading aloud.
- Teach math cross-curriculum. Incorporate math into reading, science, centers, etc. (example: add blocks with the children as they build during block time).
- Use discussion rather than rapid fire questioning to teach math concepts. Rapid fire questioning can be a bit overwhelming, and turn children off from the subject as a whole.
- Teach math to infants and toddlers too! Check out this NAEYC Resource to learn more about catering your math curriculum to these important life stages.
The Don’ts for Implementing Math in the Classroom:
- Don’t sit children down and try to teach math through a lecture format. Their attention span isn’t advanced enough for this method to be effective.
- Don’t rely on close-ended math questions only; allow children to utilize their creativity.
- Don’t rely on the usage of apps and technology only to teach math. While computers and iPads offer plenty of different applications that teach the subject, teachers providing real-time feedback offers children the encouragement they need.
- Don’t focus on one area of math only (example: shapes). Diversify lessons to incorporate the variety of important math concepts that are DAP.
- Don’t forget to partner with parents to discuss how they are incorporating math into their child’s life outside of the center.
Questions to think about:
- How many minutes/hours do you spend working on math with the children in your classroom?
- How can you work math into your daily routine/
- How will you assess whether a child is developmentally proficient in math?
- What activities have you found to be a fun and creative way to teaching math?
*All articles linked to in this post are both sources and recommended readings!