Children are born with incredible abilities and desires to learn and the early experiences provide the foundation of their successes later in life. It is essential to create a conducive learning environment where children develop critical thinking, logical reasoning and problem-solving skills which lay a solid foundation for their mathematical development.
Nowadays, due to COVID-19 children are restricted to their homes. However, home environment provides children opportunities to explore, experiment, challenge themselves and transform information into meaningful content and skills if utilise effectively by the families. The quality of the home learning environment shapes children’s cognitive development and influence their numeracy skills.
Therefore, parents as educators interacting with young children have the critical role of providing rich learning environments and mathematical language for communication. Such learning environments construct knowledge, skills and understanding in the context of daily routines and within purposefully designed play opportunities that capture children’s interests and curiosity. Some of the key activities which I consider important based on my review of the literature and personal experiences for better numeracy developments are stimulating mathematical thinking, mathematical talk and learning mathematics through problem-solving. In the following section, I am going to discuss them in detail.
Stimulating children’s mathematical thinking
Research shows that a stimulant mathematical learning environment at home with a variety of learning resources provide playful activities for the children. Play is the nature of the child and when integrated with planned and meaningful mathematical activities, it provides joyful learning experiences for the children which are necessary for their life-long learning. Play nurtures children’s higher-order thinking, logical reasoning, problem-solving and decision making with enhanced communication skills.
Therefore, engaging the children in daily chore such as cooking, cleaning, washing, etc. provides opportunities for number sense, number operations, geometric reasoning and so on. By engaging, children in daily life activities parents encourage children to count, classify, and sort objects. For example, while washing clothes let the child fill a bucket with water using a mug by counting how much mug will fill a bucket which will develop the concept of capacity. Similarly, role-playing (shopkeeper, chef, gardener) with the children boost their mathematical thinking and skills. Through role-playing, the child existing concepts of mathematics can be identified through questioning and probing. Similarly, parents and families can probe children’s understanding of numeracy and support can be provided accordingly.
Involving children in problem solving
Involving children in problem-solving is an effective way to develop their mathematical understanding. Problem-solving is a process in which children are engaged with real-life situations and problems that will give them a chance to make meaning of the mathematical concepts. It is an approach where the problem is presented to the children to engage with, lessons, skills and ideas generate from working with the problem.
In daily life, children can be given opportunities to solve problems in an innovative and creative way. Involving children in a daily task will also engage them in problem-solving situations for instance, children can be asked to sort the laundry according to colours, sizes, types and so on. They can be involved in pattern construction, measurements, number operations and other numeracy concepts while playing, chores and mealtimes. These are simple problem-solving activities, but they are interesting for the children and many important mathematical concepts can be learned through those activities.
Letting children use digital tools is also critical in developing their mathematical skills. Numerous research studies revealed that digital tools are important mediators of meaning-making, reasoning, and action in relation to mathematical development. As digital tools, we can expose children to digital calculators, digital clocks, mathematical apps and so on. Besides that, computer software’s can be used for learning mathematical concepts.
Engaging children in mathematical talk
There is an important relationship between mathematical talk and children mathematical learning. Usually, children need to expose to the mathematical vocabularies to develop their mathematical thinking and understanding. For instance, counting sets of objects accurately, recognizing the number of objects, calculating or subtracting objects and so forth. Children numeracy achievement requires both numeracy and language skills as adequate language skills are fundamental for the acquisition of mathematical understanding. Mathematical talks are vital in developing children’s mathematical understanding and developing their mathematical language. While giving the concepts mathematical language and vocabularies are significant.
For instance, at home parents and families can talk about objects’ quantity using more, less, equal, greater than, less than and so on. These effective and purposeful interactions with children play a key role in developing their linguistic and numeracy skills. Mathematical language is developed because of meaningful interaction with more proficient individuals. Children can accomplish challenging tasks through a collaborative process in which an adult or parents provide guidance and support.
In conclusion, it is essential to engage children with play-based numerical activities at home in their early years. Those activities and experiences do not need a formal setting or classroom but involving children in day to day activities better serve that purpose.