Without mathematics, there’s nothing you can do. Everything around you is mathematics. Everything around you is numbers.
— Shakuntala Devi, Indian writer and mental calculator
Mathematics is a very important subject in the Nigerian educational system. It is learnt compulsorily at all stages from primary to secondary schools in Nigeria. Even if you want to study the English language at the university level in Nigeria, mathematics is one of the subjects you must have at least a credit in before you can gain admission.
All children can be successful with maths provided they are given the opportunities to understand it in a way that makes sense to them. So you should start training them early to ensure they have a good foundation in it.
For decades, the astounding mathematical capabilities of babies and young children were ignored. Today, several studies have shown that infants can perceive and understand numbers and values.
And even more, significant findings show that babies who are introduced to numbers and encouraged to develop number sense find it easier to learn more complex mathematical concepts later on in life.
Mathematics is not about numbers, equations, computations, or algorithms: it is about understanding.
— William Paul Thurston, American mathematician
Under Age 1 Infant Discovering Numbers
There is a lot of research about where our capacity as humans to do math comes from. Some scientists suggest that we are all born with the innate sense of number in our brains. However, that does not mean that we don’t have to learn the names and the symbols of numbers to develop that instinct.
Infants usually make sense of their environment using one sense: sight. The mathematical capabilities of children can be recognised from when they open their eyes.
Research carried out by neurologists at the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences (North Carolina) on 6-month-old babies showed that even before having developed language skills, babies have a remarkable capacity for maths and display an innate understanding of figures.
A child’s first years are a time of rapid learning. Research tells us that babies have an innate capacity to understand numbers. As your child’s first teacher, you play a key role in developing their numeracy skills from an early age.
A research carried out by Dr Elizabeth S. Spelke from Harvard University measured the level of comprehension of babies and found that very young children can estimate quantities by visual evaluation.
In the beginning, children can recognise differences between two groups of objects:
- From 6 months, babies can tell the difference between two large collections where one is twice as big as the other
- From 9 to 12 months, their mathematical abilities improve and they can tell the difference between a collection of 8 toys and a group of 10
Here are a few ways mathematical skills develop for infants under the age of one:
- They begin to understand words that describe quantities (stop, big, small enough)
- Begin to understand that some of their toys make noise while some don't
- They start to understand sizes (their parents are big, they are small)
- They start to understand basic cause and effect (shaking a rattle makes noise)
- They begin to predict the sequence of events like running water means bath time, holding their feeding bottle means time to eat and so on
Mathematics for Toddlers (Aged 1-3 years)
Children's mathematical skills greatly improve from age one because, at this age, they start learning how to talk and walk. Since walking and talking is involved now, they can start reciting poems with numbers and walking toward the item you instruct them to.
Kids between the age of one to 3 years old are beginning to explore patterns and shapes, compare sizes and count objects. Toddlers gradually learn the names of numbers as they learn how to speak properly. By the age of 3, many children have memorized 1 to 10 and are beginning to count small sets of objects successfully.
Even basic calculation isn’t very far away at this age as children do addition and subtraction without realising. For example, they know that if you take 1 toy away from a group of 2, there will be 1 toy left. In the same way, if you add a toy to a group of 2, there will be 3 in total.
Here are some activities and tips to engage your child with counting:
Listen for the counting sequence in these songs and rhymes, which are all on YouTube:
- Five Little Ducks
- Ten in the Bed
- 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, Once I Caught a Fish Alive
- Ten Green Bottles
- Five Little Monkeys
- 1, 2, Buckle My Shoe
Building Blocks and Shapes to Help with Geometry
Geometry is one of the oldest branches of mathematics. It is concerned with properties of space that are related to distance, shape, size, and relative position of figures.
There are many ways to increase mathematical skills and knowledge by playing with blocks. Playing with blocks increases the ability to understand sizes, shapes and patterns which will lead to increased skills in counting, adding, subtracting and sorting.
The use of educational toys is an interesting way to get your kids to learn fast. Geometry is a major mathematical discipline! By playing educational games and doing puzzles, children improve their spatial awareness and perception skills.
We have seen toddlers exploring shapes and patterns, drawing and creating geometric designs, taking joy in recognizing and naming specific shapes they see. This is geometry-one of the most natural and fun areas of mathematics to develop with young children!
Among children's learning toys are usually puzzles based on shape. In the beginning, this may be a difficult task for them, but with practice, they will begin to understand how the puzzle works and solve it in no time.
Stacking cubes and arranging them in size order teaches children to compare, categorise and organise whilst entertaining the creative side of the mind.
Block play as discussed earlier can lead to increased skills in counting, adding, subtracting and sorting. So, as you use blocks to play with your children, ask them questions to support their learning and increasing of mathematical skills like how many blocks are there, how many colours, how many reds, blues, greens etc.
Children should also be taught to understand that they can manipulate objects and think logically.
Maths Games For Learning
Math games are a fun way to practice math skills. So the role of math games is for a person to generate interest and have fun while learning.
You must have noticed that babies like to throw objects that you sometimes give them. This is just a demonstration that they have recognised the force of gravity and are repeating an action that helps them experience how it works. The next time you notice this action, appreciate it because they are learning.
Parents who are early childhood educators should carefully select concepts that children can successfully master and work to stretch their knowledge toward new growth. one of the best ways in doing this is by introducing maths games as a tool for learning.
There are many traditional and online games that can be used to arouse children's interest in mathematics. Some popular ones commonly used by parents at home are:
- Building blocks (such as Lego Duplo),
- Puzzles involving simple shapes,
- Tape on the Floor Number Relay Race
- Coloured Balls: counting the balls
Mathematics is a language.
— Josiah Willard Gibbs, American scientist
Using Nursery Rhymes To Learn Numbers
Singing is a fantastic way to spend time together with young children and also a great method of helping them learn.
I am certain that you as a parent or guardian may still remember some of the nursery rhymes you learn while growing up. Nursery rhymes are a great way for kids to learn plus it is fun too.
They are part of children’s pre-literacy skills, being an important pillar in their cognitive development. Many rhymes offer a range of ideas to promote interest and understanding in number, shape, measurement, patterns, mathematical language and problem-solving.
There are many nursery rhymes that use numbers in the content of the rhymes, such as “One, two, three, four, five” and “Hot cross buns,” so children practice counting, addition and subtraction while just singing along to the song.
As a parent or guardian fully invested in making sure your child learns fast, it is important to work at your child’s pace and don’t rush them, as this may make them stressed. Just use all the possible fun approaches to get their attention.
Children and adults need numeracy and maths skills to do everyday things. Don't worry yourself too much about your child's learning progress...your child’s everyday experiences are full of learning opportunities that lay the foundations for numeracy. It’s just best if you can make these everyday numeracy activities and experiences playful and relaxed so that they’re fun for your child.
Do you need a maths teacher for kids to help in your child learning development? Well, you can check from the wide selection of maths tutors for kids on our platform, Superprof Nigeria.
The platform that connects tutors and students