We love reading about child development. Extensive scientific research has revealed the benefits of talking and reading with young children. In addition to encouraging bonding, these interactions promote vocabulary and content knowledge building. These exchanges can be effective in developing literacy and numeracy.
1. the ability to understand and work with numbers; the quality or state of being [able to] numerate1
Numeracy is an understanding of how to use numbers; my numeracy does not depend on the feeling that I am good at math. Regardless of our sense of ourselves as math scholars (or not), we can successfully share our working grasp of numbers with children in our lives. We can share what we know and help children build their own mathematical skills. We can influence the numeracy skills of children in our lives by talking about math and doing math-related activities.
We can start by embedding math conversations in everyday interactions with young children in our lives. Counting is an excellent place to begin. While changing your baby’s diaper, you might count their fingers or toes aloud. You might point out their two ears, two eyes, one nose and one mouth. You could count stairs as you climb them, cars that go by outside or the leaves on a tree—though perhaps there are not too many this time of year.
Much math can be learned by noticing what is around you. Point out shapes around your house and community. What shape is the child’s crib or bed? A table in the home? The front door?
Comparing and contrasting is a helpful skill for both numeracy and literacy. Which tree has more leaves? Which object is bigger? Which shapes have points and which are round and smooth?
If you cook or bake, you might count aloud or discuss measurements with your child. How many cups of flour go into the recipe? What is the difference between a cup and a teaspoon? A teaspoon and a tablespoon?
Share what you know and what excites you. I like sports, so I talk to children in my life about the shape of a basketball, of the court and about the number of players in the game at once.
Try a hands-on activity to build math awareness. Here are a few ideas.
- Feel a round object, such as a bowl, and then gently feel the corners on a book or table. Talk about the differences you notice.
- Draw or color two-dimensional shapes. Try building three-dimensional shapes using paper, straws and tape or even toilet paper tubes.
- Play catch with a playground ball. Can you bounce the ball one time when you pass it? Two times? Three times?
Consider the wealth of free online resources, such as the following:
MathTalk is a nonprofit that encourages parent-child conversation around math, beginning in early childhood. In addition to resources, the program created art and education installations around Boston to, “provide parents outdoor opportunities to engage their children in conversations that lend to math and language enrichment.”2
3 Ways to Promote Social and Emotional Learning through Math
“3 Ways to Promote Social and Emotional Learning through Math,” an article from the Education Development Center, highlights broad strategies, such as encouraging a growth mindset, for supporting developing children of all ages. It also includes specific tips for young and middle school-aged children.
Pennsylvania’s Learning Standards for Early Childhood
The Early Learning Standards set (including alignment between the standards and the Parents as Teachers curriculum) by the Pennsylvania Department of Education provides a framework for quality early childhood curriculum and content. If your program uses a different curriculum, the alignment documents show how everyday activities can be linked to learning standards.
1 Numeracy. (n.d.). Retrieved December 23, 2020, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/numeracy
2 MathTalk. (n.d.). Retrieved December 23, 2020, from http://www.math-talk.com/
This article is from Family Support News Brief’s January 2021 edition. The Family Support News Brief covers topics like Parents as Teachers model fidelity and training, strengthening families protective factors, prevention of child abuse, childhood injury prevention, and more.