Few days back I wrote a post about my agitation on a viral video about the way a small girl was being taught Maths and the pressure early age schooling creates for kids. I wrote my views on Why I decided to start Nursery for my daughters at 4+” (Click to read the article)


I promised myself as well as all you readers that instead of just cribbing about the situation, I will try and use my knowledge in educating parents on introducing different concepts to kids that makes learning fun for them & also ensures less pressure on school system & less frustration for parents. So here I begin with my favorite topic – Mathematics.

Introducing Maths to Toddlers & Pre-schoolers


Oh!! She’s so good with numbers. She is a genius. She’s a born mathematician!!! Is She??


So, are kids born with an aptitude for Maths? Is anyone a born Math Genius?


NO, says research. But kids do develop understanding of the concept of quantities and patterns as early as at age of 6 months. Research shows that babies who are introduced to numbers before the age of 1 can count, identify larger number and do basic calculations like addition, repeated addition, subtraction & division by the age of 3.5. 


Now let’s get down to business. How do we introduce mathematics to babies and how do we develop the aptitude towards mathematics for pre schoolers and school going kids.

Early learners / Toddlers


So how do we introduce the concept of maths to kids? The first thing that most parents and teachers would teach is numbers, right? Say one (vaan) say 2 (tooo)!!


Most kids dislike maths because it is an abstract idea to them. They’ll repeat 1 2 3 and even cram it, but it’s nothing more than gibberish to them, just like Un dos tres is nothing more than a Ricky Martin song for me. So it’s not numbers that we should begin with, but number sense.


Number sense means understanding that numbers have a meaning. It’s linking the numbers to everyday environmental things. So one becomes one nose, two becomes two eyes, three becomes three apple in the bowl, four becomes four members in our family etc. Babies and toddlers love manipulative, so use them. A Manipulative is any object that kids can see, touch feel – so objects like kidney beans, Popsicle sticks, pebbles, beads, boxes etc are great manipulative for kids. Introduce maths using marbles, tomatoes, blocks… anything that they can play with works best.


Pre schoolers and school going kids


Once they develop a number sense, they’ll learn more complex spiraled objectives (maths is always spiraled i.e. an objective is always based on the previous objective and one skill can not be learnt unless the previous one is mastered) To make sure that they master the objective that you are teaching, three levels of introduction needs to be taken care of

1) Concrete
2) Pictorial
3) Abstract


So let’s say my objective of the day is teaching addition of twi 1 digit numbers. Let’s say for example the problem is 2 + 3 = ?



Step 1 # Concrete



Give any concrete object that they can touch, feel and play with. For eg. I’ll take two tomatoes in one bowl and three tomatoes in another bowl. I’ll let her play with it for a while and then ask her to count the tomatoes in bowl no. 1. Similarly she’ll count the tomatoes in bowl no. 2. Now ask her to MIX the two in one bowl and ask her now how many TOTAL tomatoes are there. She’ll count and tell – 5. We are not just introducing the concept of addition but also vocabulary associated with Mathematics here. 


Step 2 # Pictorial



Same problem let them solve with the pictorial method. For eg. I’ll give a sheet of paper and ask her to draw two stars on one side of the paper. Similarly I’ll ask her to draw three stars on other side of paper. Now I’ll ask her to count the start on side one – 2 and on side two -3. I’ll ask her if I MIX the start how many stars TOTAL are there. She’ll count and tell me – 5.


You can find some great worksheets for pictorial counting at Super Teachers Worksheets website.


Step 3 # Abstract


Introduce the abstract idea of Addition. At this stage addition will not be an abstract alien concept for kids, but a game where they need to MIX and find TOTAL ( key words should remain consistent for them to be able to relate)

The kids need to know the Print Numbers i.e. 1 is One and 2 Is Two as a pre skill for this. Now give them the problem on a piece of paper – 2 + 2 = ? Let them use their knowledge of objects and pictures (you’ll need to guide them to use manipulative or pictures initially) and find the solution. Practice few more problems and here is your little master of adding one digit number to one digit number!!!


In the next article in this series, I will share the 3 step process of teaching Abstract Concept (the way we teachers do) in detail.


Suggested Reading – You can read this wonderful article by a dear friend Lata Tokhi about “Fun, Everyday ways of improving math skills in kids” by clicking on the link.


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