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Developing Early Numerical Skills

Developing early numerical skills can be important in a child’s ability to feel comfortable with and excel at mathematics in school.  Why is math important?  How can parents foster the early development of numerical skills in their children?

Why is math important?

 Aside from math-related careers that typically have higher than average annual incomes (such careers include engineering, accounting, and actuarial sciences), math is essential in daily living.  People need to be able to reconcile their checking accounts monthly.  People need to calculate their bills for themselves to ensure that they are being properly charged (for example, if a person buys six light fixtures at $125.59 each, is the total pre-tax bill of $775.41 correct?).  People need to be able to scale items (for example, if a child weighs 50 pounds and the liquid medicine bottle indicates that the medicine should be administered at one spoonful per 20 pounds that the child weighs, how many spoonfuls should the child be given?).  These and myriad other examples highlight that math is an essential daily-use skill.

How can parents foster the early development of numerical skills in their children?

Parents can and should expose young children to basic math.  If a parent is taking a child to the grocery store, the parent can use this as a teaching opportunity.  For example, the parent might say, “Mommy needs eight oranges.  Let’s see: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight.  There!  We now have eight oranges!”  A child’s room is an excellent opportunity for early math exposure.  For example, the parent might say, “How many little ones are in this room?  ONE!  ONE little one is in this room!  YOU!  Now, how many puppies are in this room?  One, two . . . TWO!  Duke and Sammy are in this room!”  Parents typically start asking such questions when children are nine to 12 months old.  These early questions are rhetorical in nature as the children are not expected to produce an answer.  However, as the children mature into their toddler years, repetition should enable children to answer these questions correctly.   Additionally, various board games and electronic games can assist parents in teaching toddlers and pre-schoolers basic math.

In sum

Parents want to help their children grow to be all that they can be and to give them the tools they will need to succeed in life.  The development of math skills is a tool that is essential for most adults.  By following the tips above, parents can help their children develop early numerical skills that will set the stage for the children’s comfort with and success in math in school and in life.

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