"Math talk" is the language you use to introduce early math concepts in your everyday life with your kids. Chatting aloud with preschoolers is key in teaching them the fundamental social, literacy, and math skills they crucially need to learn before kindergarten. A lot of research has shown that talking, reading, and singing very early with your kids is the best way to support their brain development and prepare them to achieve and excel in school.
The reassuring news is that it's not necessary to be a preschool teacher or have a math degree to teach basic math. Parents and caregivers can simply add a bit of math to their everyday conversations and activities with their kids. For example, you can do it at meals by making patterns or sorting the foods by color and size on the plates. On a walk, you can pull this off by using words like "above," "below," or "next to" when speaking about buildings, shops, cars, and people. Such vocabulary helps children develop spatial sense and directional concepts.
Counting out loud foods and other items, and reading numbers on the price tags at the supermarket are among the best educational activities for your little ones. During meal preparation, ask them to count and measure the ingredients, and teach them words like first, second, third, and last. At mealtime, compare the servings and quantities on plates using expressions such as "more than," "less than," or "equal to." Possibilities are infinite, in the kitchen and at the table.
At bedtime, sort, categorize, and count books, images, and toys. Tell, read, and discuss a lot of stories. Talking and reading are among the best predictors of subsequent academic and school performance. Once math talk is included in your daily routines, it becomes easy to expand the conversations into new learning experiences.
Early math learning should be fun (even silly), and learning opportunities should be turned into games as often as possible. "How many red cars will we find on the way to preschool today? How many animals? How many children? How many women? How many men? How many dragons? How many dolphins?" When playing at home or in the park, integrate spatial terms like "next," "across," "under," "above," "near," or "far" in your sentences.
Before all, count everything everywhere: steps on the stairs, building windows, signs in the street, trees, flowers, and birds in the park, etc. The more you incorporate math into your discussions with your kids, the higher their confidence will rise and, accordingly, their interest in mathematics.
Last but not least, it's very important to keep it simple and age-appropriate. No young child can understand complex math quickly. It's a process that takes a lot of time and repetition and is best learned in successive and incremental stages. For instance, kids need to learn to count from one to 10 in the correct order before being able to perform additions and then progress to multiplications. Some stages can be crossed quickly or may last for some time. While math is an exact science, education is not.
Picture: Arcanys Early Learning Foundation