Your preschooler can count to 10, so you think he or she is ready for kindergarten.

But don't be fooled. Reciting the numbers doesn't mean your child understands what they mean.

Two Wilfrid Laurier University professors have found that when parents playwith their young children, they hardly spend any time teaching them about amounts and numbers.

Yet if parents knew how to talk about math concepts, they'd give their children an advantage that would last all through their school years.

That's why psychology professor Joanne Lee and education professor Donna Kotsopoulos joined forces todo research and teach parents the skills they need.

The weekly sessions, which ended earlier this month, were called "Fun with Numbers" and took place with parents and their one- or two-year-oldchildren at Waterloo Public Library.

Early literacy is a hot issue right now. North American society places a big emphasis on teaching letters and words to infants and toddlers.

But ironically, even experts in education seem content to wait until school for the math part, says Kotsopoulos, who specializes in the teaching of math.

"Generally, if you look at (provincial government) documents on early learning, the emphasis on math is almost negligible," she said.

"Parents don't have a really good idea how to work with numbers."

Leeand Kotsopoulos have already watched 48 families, in which parents and their children, aged 18 months to three years, played with dice, blocks and books.

The parents talked about colours and names of the items but hardly at all about any math concepts.

"Somehow we forgot that numbers are also part of the representation," Lee said.

The researchers are hoping to track the math skills of these children as they grow, and compare them with another group of children whose parents have received special training in math concepts.

Their research is groundbreaking. No one else has studied the math education of children this young, although several other studies have shown that children aged three and older who get extra math training in preschool programs enjoy a lasting advantage in elementary school.

Lee and Kotsopoulos say some of the children will be so young, they won't even have the words they need to answer the math questions verbally.

So they'll use several computer screens with pictures on them, and see which one the child looks at.

For example, one screen would have one ball pictured on it, another three balls, and another, six balls.

The child will be asked: "Where are the three balls?" and then will look at the screen with three balls.

Theresearchers are hoping that some of the parents who enrolled in the"Fun with Numbers" program will volunteer to be part of the study.

Gihan Perrera, who brought his 20-month-old son, said the program is "great."

He admits he has underestimated math in playing with his child.

"It's one of these things that you don't think of," said Perrera, aphysician. "We think they're going to pick it up after language."

The sessions have plenty of songs and movements, plus techniques for parents to learn and practise.

Some techniques:

For example, take some blocks and put them in a pile on a table. Have the child slide a block from one end to the other and say "One." Then slide the next item along to join the first and say "Two."


Source: Daily Gleaner –