Did you know at school 1 in 4 children is burdened with math anxiety? Children’s play builds math confidence instead of anxiety which can last for a lifetime.
When it comes to math, such as dividing a recipe in half, checking the utility bill, or measuring a board before cutting, are you comfortable? For many adults this is a nightmare and the roots of the fear come from long before they started school. Trying to figure out which way to go when suddenly faced with numbers is like trying to navigate in a new country. For kids that haven’t seen, touched, and played with numbers before school no wonder they feel fearful and anxious. On the other hand, kids that have math play experiences greet numbers and math ideas like old, familiar friends.
As parents and caregivers, they are countless ways to encourage math play. Here are a few:
- Run some water in a sink or bin and add a few containers and spoons of different sizes. As kids play they figure out it takes lots and lots of small containers to fill a bigger one. That’s the math concept of volume.
- Snack time has many opportunities for counting. Let kids count out 10 fishy crackers, cheerios, chocolate chips, raisins, cranberries, and other little finger foods to eat up. Young kids will need help with the counting. It won’t be accurate at first. Some of the numbers will be mixed up but kids are hearing and using the number words.
- Compare the sizes of things and use words like more, less, many, few, small, big, etc. Math is also about relationships. Dolls and
other toys that go inside each other are designed on relationship.
- Include some foam and magnetic numbers for kids to touch and explore. Kids may not know which number shape goes with which number word but brains are recording how they look and feel.
- Patterning is another important math skill. You can show your child a few patterns, like red car/blue car, red car/blue car. After seeing lots of repeated patterns kids can make then on their own.
- One-to-one matching is a critical idea. A muffin tin is fun for this. One car or one block or one tiny animal goes in each hole. Brains need to grasp the idea that one number means one thing so play experiences are critical. Setting the table is one-to-one matching too. One fork for each person.
The expression to “steal a march on someone” means to have an advantage. Ordinary experiences will give your child a powerful advantage and play builds math confidence. How many ways can your child play with math today?
Can you make the days count with the new year’s resolution to include some kids number play? How can we do this–let me count the ways.
Every day there are countless ways to include kids number play. From getting dressed in clothes with numbers, counting steps to the bus, looking for numbers, telling kids they have 2 more minutes, asking them to try 3 more bites of veggies before dessert, cutting a treat in half, one plate for each person on the table, and alternating turns are all examples of numbers and math in a day. So ordinary.
If numbers and math are so much a part of every day, why then do so many people fear them? Math anxiety is so common it affects 1 in 4 people, kids too. Have you every been overwhelmed by math or terrified of having to figure out a math problem? Something so common, and so needed, shouldn’t be scary. Like the big X on a test, this is wrong. For the sake of our kids and their future, we need to do whatever we can for them to feel comfortable and confident when it comes to math. Kids need to be so familiar with seeing and hearing numbers when they get to school and work with numbers, they greet them like old, familiar friends.
Math is like the chameleon that changes colors. It can be as comfy as favorite, worn out slippers or as exciting and adventurous as the count down on a spaceship. So how do we get kids to like numbers and math? The answer comes in a word: PLAY.
Here are some inspirations. Pick up a package of numbers to play with on the floor or fridge. These are often available at dollar or thrift stores. Get out the play-dough and let your child roll out the numbers of your house or apartment. Draw out a hopscotch on the sidewalk and let your child feel the numbers from toe to head. Count toes and fingers. To turn a frown into a smile at wake-up time, coax a foot from under the covers. Count your child’s toes and pretend there is one missing. Look for it all over, in the bed, under the pillow, mixed up in the blankets, and ‘find’ it. The missing toe is your thumb peeking out between two fingers. Put the ‘toe’ back in place and heave a sigh of relief. Find your own ways to play with numbers and math. If you could super-charge your child’s future with some simple, easy, everyday play would you? Think of ways math and number fear hold you back. Ease and confidence with numbers are gifts you can give your child every day. Childhood days are numbered so can you make each day count with kids number play?
Let’s go for some number play activities. Did you know the Olympic Games can help children develop familiarity and confidence with numbers?
As we watch and listen to some of the Olympic events, we are interested in the numbers. How fast was that race? What heavy was the bar in weight lifting? Who came first? Numbers are tremendously important in the Games. As kids watch and listen, they are hearing and seeing numbers. The following suggestions for number play activities are from an earlier post.
Math can be a challenge for some not just in school but for their entire life, so basic familiarity with numbers is vital, and it’s easy and fun to do. Play with numbers helps kids up their comfort level with numbers.
One way to show kids that math is part of our lives, is to notice all the places where there are numbers. When getting up in the morning, count to make sure there are two feet and one didn’t get left in the bed. Numbers can be part of getting dressed. Two feet need two socks, but where or where is the other sock? Count the buttons on the shirt as it gets done up. Young children may have favorite sports players and proudly wear their numbers.
Breakfast also includes a serving of numbers and the math concepts of more and less. The street will have signs and there are numbers on houses, cars, and offices. On the playground, count 10 pushes on the swing, then both of you can count again. For a snack, count the raisins for ants on a log.
Set out some foam numbers or fridge magnets. Roll out some number fun with playdough and make them in sand. Read books with numbers and sing songs. Songs for counting are easy to sing and repetitive like 5 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed and The Ants Go Marching.
Have fun with shapes. Look for them, use them in art, read about them, and eat them. Build and cook, measurement is part of both. Kids explore volume as they play with water and sand. Do puzzles, race cars. Play games.
All of this adds up, pardon the pun, to building math confidence rather than math anxiety in kids. What fun with math can your child have today?
(Visit the 123 blog for more Olympic Games play ideas.)
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