A lovely reader asked how I introduced numbers to Jack. I was having a bit of a think about it and the earliest I can remember was reading number plates in a shopping centre carpark when Jack was a little younger than two.
Like many people I would say, we simply talked about numbers in our everyday life; May I have 2 pencils please? That house is number 20. How many blocks do you have? We need 2 cups of flour for this recipe…
Jack learnt to count to 10 and quantify 1-5 soon enough. He didn’t know how to write the numbers, but we weren’t too worried about that.
About 8 months ago I thought Jack was ready for some more complex math. He had been making small sums in his head; adding the number of people at the table, adding his food on his plate, and so I thought I would introduce addition.
At the time, while he enjoyed the activity, I don’t think in hindsight that Jack was completely ready; there was probably more of me wanting to teach addition than there was him wanting to learn. Jack went on counting numbers and that suited him. I didn’t put out any more math explorations until I noticed a strong intrinsic motivation from Jack.
This came about a couple of months ago. I put out a small calculator when I was rotating the toys. Jack was so intrigued by it and played with the calculator almost exclusively for a couple of days.
Jack loves numbers so much now that he’ll describe something in terms of numbers; if something was really fun, like the twisty slide at the Arboretum, he’ll describe it as the biggest number he can think of, “Mummy that slide was SO fun. It was a hundred thousand and two hundred and fifty-five!’ It’s quite endearing.
We’ve come back to addition, this time with an intrinsic drive that only comes when you truly follow a child’s lead and act when they are ready.
- glass beads
- sea glass
- felt eggs
- wood chips
- small plain and coloured wooden cubes
- mosaic kitchen tiles…
I also picked up some cedar rings from K-mart (pack of 10 $2). We’ve been using them for both addition and subtraction; threading rings as he counts onto craft wire.
Jack found subtraction a little difficult; even though he could quantify most any number, he didn’t quite understand numbers in relation to each other and couldn’t say which number was bigger than the other. A little bit of greater than and less than work with loose parts soon helped him understand.
I have a few math trays on the playroom shelves at the moment (threading, dominoes and number stones) along with a notebook and pencil for writing sums. Jack has his calculator in his room and plays with it while he’s drifting off to sleep.