Understanding math begins with a solid exploration of your child’s world around them, because math isn’t just about numbers, it’s also about pattern recognition, spatial awareness, and the ability to estimate and divide. These are all basics your child starts to learn as a baby. A baby learns to recognize facial patterns — to know when Mom and Dad are happy or sad. He develops an ability to understand patterns through daily routines, such as feeding, sleeping, etc. She learns an understanding of spatial relationships by learning to move her own body and observing those around them. By adding to your child’s natural and sensory inclinations, you can continue their mathematical development up through the toddler and preschool years.
Visual children respond well to counting books, flash cards and counting games such as “I Spy.” They have a natural inclination to match things up visually, such as putting all the blue cars together in a row, so help them to learn other sensory classifications such as shape, or the noise something makes, or the item’s purpose. Letting them help with everyday things like setting the dinner table will help them to learn about fractions, (fitting 6 people round a table) and spatial perception. Help their pattern recognition skills by drawing or setting up a pattern and asking them to copy it. This will also help them learn that there are many different ways to view even the simplest of patterns.
Tactile children will respond best to activities they can do and feel. Number games such as hopscotch, or a “numbers scavenger hunt” will help them to memorize numbers. Give your tactile child the task of handing out items family members, whilst counting. This will help them learn not only the concept of sharing, but also division. For example, six oranges for six people, or two oranges, cut in half for four people. When tidying up, help them learn pattern recognition but putting all the trucks in one basket, or all the red dresses together. Building with Legos, playing with wooden blocks, and even rearranging the furniture in a dollhouse re-decoration teaches many mathematical skills such as space, patterns and shape recognition.
Taste and smell children will respond to food. Your child will learn to measure when you cook together; she can learn spatial understanding placing the cookie dough on a tray; you can study division by cutting up and sharing of various foods. Family events are wonderful times for this sensitive child to practice their number skills. You can ask them count how many people are to sit down to lunch, or how many are wearing pink cardigans. The trick is to design the activity so that it reinforces the family closeness, making it fun for your sensitive taste and smell child. You may find that he will struggle to use numbers, rather than names, to identify things and people. However, this is an important ability that they will need the ability to separate feeling from pattern.
Auditory children naturally look for patterns. Patterns in behavior, in sound and in the world in general. By being acutely aware of the tone and pitch of voices, parents can use this inclination to help teach fractions and degree. For example, “Fred was sounding half way cross” or “The dog was barking a little bit loud.” You can slowly add numbers to the “little bit” portions. Rhymes will help them to learn numbers and basic counting. Also, games that require a physical action like hopscotch will help them develop the spatial concept of numbers.
By creatively playing with your child through their dominant learning sense, you will ensure that their mathematical base is solid and understood as well as creating a wonderful and fun learning environment that will take them through school.
Priscilla Dunstan is a behavioral researcher and creator of the Dunstan Baby Language and author of “Child Sense” and “Calm the Crying.” She currently works in New York as a behavioral consultant. Learn more about Dunstan at www.dunstanbabynewyork.com.