Today, I’d like to introduce Christina Pilkington one of my favorite bloggers on the subject of interest-led learning. Since my own kids are so much older now, I wanted Christina to share with you from the perspective of a mom with younger kids and how she helps them learn basic skills through interest-led learning. I hope you enjoy this guest post today! And now Christina begins…
While I was scrolling through my home page on Facebook a few months ago, I came across a picture that was posted by someone close to our family. The picture showed a piece of paper with rows of square boxes. In each box, a little girl-who is five years old- had written the number 3 over and over again in the first row of squares. Then she had written the number 4 over and over again in the row of squares underneath the first row. And so on, and so on.
She’s in Kindergarten and this was her homework. She was doing something a teacher told her she had to complete.
Today, I played a game of Mancala with my two five (almost six!) year olds. It’s a wonderful game; it originated in Africa and some people think it’s the oldest game in history. We played it for over an hour and a half and learned strategy, counting, and keeping score.
My kids begged me to keep playing the game. In fact whenever we play games with numbers, I usually have to find a way to distract them or else they’ll want to play for hours and hours.
Now, if you have a child who wants to practice writing numbers for fun, go for it!
But the important thing to keep in mind is that schools have it all backwards. While they may bring in some games and manipulatives, schools usually require small children, often starting in Kindergarten, to learn math in very abstract ways.
They want them to write numbers and fill out drill worksheets, adding and subtracting numbers without having a solid concrete
understanding of how they work. Most kids are not developmentally ready to really think in abstract terms until they are at least 11 or 12.
That’s not to say that kids can’t comprehend math concepts before then. You’d be amazed at what kids can understand.
But without having a solid idea of how numbers relate to each other, how numbers and logic works in real-life situations, than everything a child does on paper- all those workbooks that many adults think are so important – those are really just parlor tricks they’re performing. They may be able to get A’s on a test, but they cannot transfer that paper math to real situations.
Many children also have a difficult time with handwriting until they are closer to 9 or 10. That’s not to say they can’t write at all, but they’re usually not comfortable or proficient at writing for long periods of time.
And most of the math done in school involves a lot of writing. Instead of having fun with numbers, playing lots of games, and using numbers to solve real problems, kids are forced to spend long periods of time writing instead. They grow to associate writing – something that may be very frustrating for kids- with math. And so they grow up thinking they hate math!
So what can you do if you want your young child to grow up, if not loving math, than not loathing it either?
Here are a few ways to introduce math concepts into your home naturally in the context of daily life.
- Do lots of cooking. You’ve probably heard this tip before, but younger children can learn an incredible amount of math just from cooking and baking with you every week. There’s counting, subtracting, temperatures, fractions and dividing. Cooking and baking also connects math with art, science and the practical skill of learning how to make food for a family.
- Bring in as many games as you can into your kids lives. Here are a few of my favorites for kids in the age range of 5-8: Sum Swamp Addition and Subtraction Game, Sequence for Kids, Money Bags a Coin Value Game, ThinkFun Math Dice, Jr. & Blokus.
- Watch some DVDs about numbers. Here’s some fun ones you might want to watch: Donald in Math Magic Land, Schoolhouse Rock: Multiplication, Leap Frog: Math Adventure to the Moon, LeapFrog: Math Circus, & Leap Frog: Numbers Ahoy.
- Let your kids see you using numbers every day to solve problems. Talk out loud when you’re trying to solve a problem. You might say, “This can of corn costs more than the other can of corn, but if I look at the price per ounce, I’m actually getting a better deal by buying the more expensive can because I can get more for my money. Stores can be pretty tricky that way sometimes.” Or, “I wonder if it would be a better deal to buy the generic brand of this bread or to buy this other brand of bread using one of my coupons?”
- Look for patterns and talk about them. You can find patterns in songs you sing, pictures you draw, changes in the seasons. Math and science are often inseparable. Do lots of fun experiments that involve patterns. Go to art museums and talk about the patterns and numbers you find there. Take them on nature walks and point out all the beauty of math in nature, like the Fibonacci numbers commonly found in flowers and pine cones.
The key is to take the time to slow down and involve your kids when you use math concepts naturally in your life. Most young children find numbers fascinating. It’s our job as parents to introduce our kids to math ideas and skills in ways that show them how useful, fun and interesting the world of numbers can be.
Thank you so much for sharing this with my readers, Christina! These are wonderful ideas for incorporating math in a natural way that will keep our kids interested in the beauty of math and eager for more in the years ahead!
What are your favorite ways to use numbers in real life with your kids? We’d love to hear from you!
Christina Pilkington is the creator of the website Interest-Led Learning. She lives a life of passion, adventures and connections with her husband and 5 year old boy/girl twins. She’s written an e-book called A Thrift Store Curriculum which you can get for free when you sign up for her newsletter. You can also connect with her at Twitter and Facebook.