The Importance of Teaching Math in the Early Years

Math is one of the most basic skills we expect our children to master.  Reading, writing and arithmetic: these are the three subjects often named as being of paramount importance.  And yet, while much focus is put on early literacy skills including reading and writing, math is often lost in the shuffle.  But teaching your child math skills from an early age is more important than you might think.

"Mastery of early math skills predicts not only future math achievement, it also predicts future reading achievement," states Greg Duncan, PhD, of Northwestern University.  Research into the importance of early math skills shows that children who are taught math early and learn the basics at a young age are set up for a lifetime of achievement in all aspects of their academic performance.  Building more advanced math skills is just one of the areas in which basic math taught early on can make a difference.

Math can be taught much earlier than most parents think.  While addition and subtraction are out of most toddlers’ grasp, from as young as infancy children start to grasp the concept of numbers and counting.  “There are precursors to numerical understanding that children can do at a very young age. For example, research tells us that by 6 to 12 months of age, children can recognize small groups of numbers without counting,” says Dr. Douglas Clements, Professor of Mathematics and Computer Education at the State University of New York, Buffalo, author, and expert on early childhood math skills.

Parents can encourage this natural understanding of mathematical concepts and help children to build on them by providing educational toys and activities that promote math skills.  As with reading and writing, experts recommend the earlier the better when it comes to introducing basic math.  The better a child can develop early math skills, the likelier he or she will succeed in later academic pursuits.

Make math a central part of your child’s early education by:

  • Providing toys like blocks that allow for developing the concept of numbers
  • Choosing books and educational videos focusing on numbers and counting

  • Spending time on simple counting and numerical activities with your child, just as you spend time reading to develop literacy skills

Early math is just as important as early literacy; in fact, it can improve reading and writing skills.  Children who start with numerical skills even in infancy will do better with math when they reach school.  Giving your child the opportunity to get a head-start on math is one of the best things you can do for their future success.

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