Do you ever find yourself wishing you had learned French, Spanish as a young child, when it was easier? You’ve heard that the early years are the critical period for learning languages, and once we’re older it’s much harder to become fluent.
But here’s something you probably don’t know:
We’re predisposed for mathematics in the same way that we’re predisposed for language.
If you’ve ever found yourself thinking “I’m just not good at math” or “I hope my kids somehow get the ‘math gene’!” (like almost all of us have thought at some point!). Then it’s time to start thinking about math in a completely new way.
We are all born with math on the mind
Our brains are built to understand and appreciate mathematical concepts, and the task is to support that development throughout life.
It’s like this: at birth, our brains are capable of learning any language and of distinguishing between all the hundreds of possible sounds the mouth can make. After a few years, this critical window closes, and the child’s capacity for learning distinguishing sounds decreases significantly.
Our brains are primed for mathematics, and like language, the key to success is exposure and consistency at a young age. This is what we do in the Montessori classroom.
Mathematics in the Montessori Classroom
The US consistently lags behind the rest of the world educationally in math and science, and it’s not because our children aren’t capable.
The enduring false belief in the US is that children of a young age just aren’t capable of learning math concepts–and traditional educational standards have reflected this false belief.
We’re changing this in the Montessori classroom.
Maria Montessori believed that, “children display a universal love of mathematics”, and we structure our curriculum on this belief.
Evidence supports that tactile interaction enhances our math learning, so when you see a toddler stacking blocks or a young school age child sorting by color and shape, so much more is at work.
The Montessori classroom uses supplies children can manipulate and interact with to teach math. It’s probably not a surprise that we don’t use flashcards to teach math, but instead choose items that engage children in multiple ways.
Early childhood starts with concrete principles (counting beads 1-10+) then moves to abstract concepts as the child grows (such as calculus).
Curious about the tools we use to teach math?
We wrote an in-depth post all about it! Read it here to learn about the physical tools we use in the classroom.
How to Implement Math at Home
In most situations, you are your child’s best toy. Teaching math at home doesn’t require lots of expensive supplies, it just requires your time and attention.
You can build on your child’s innate sense of mathematics by counting any number of things (toes, flower petals, birthday candles, etc), sorting laundry together, cooking, especially baking. Let your child interact with mathematical materials you likely already have, like tape measure, ruler, or geometric puzzles.
Bake a pie together, then as you slice it talk about fractions. Your child will be learning nutrition (make a healthier pie), volume, imperial measurements (as opposed to metric, if you use measuring cups and spoons), and fractions.
Every one of these activities will be a wonder for your child, plus give you an opportunity to spend quality time together. If you have favorite ways of learning math with your child, we’d love to learn!
Questions about how we teach math? We’d love to hear about it.