How Children Learn Through Maths in Early Childhood
I am going to be explaining how infants, toddlers and young children learn through mathematics - How Children Learn Through Maths in Early Childhood introduction. The five area I will cover are number, algebra, geometry measurement and statistics. Children will learn maths over time, it’s not a sudden development they will understand and use. With time and a base to build they will soon learn and be confident learners in school (Perkins, 2003). When we teachers speak to infants, we may use numbers when we speak or sing to them. Such as five little ducks, has the numbers 1-5 throughout the song.
The children may not understand how many five are but will be exposed to number and what they mean. Another example for infants and toddlers is when we count stairs on their way up to have their nappy changed, and whilst we change their nappy we may count how many feet they have when putting their shoes on (Perkins, 2003). Toddlers have more understanding of numbers as many have started with verbal communication. The children may start to count the stairs themselves, or notice they have two feet or arms as they put their clothes on.
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Although the child has shown the development and competence in mathematical concepts and by using it in their verbal communication (Ministry of Education, 1996), are the children really counting and understanding what the numbers mean or do they just count because that’s we have taught them to do? Have teachers enforced children to learn numbers before they are ready to understand what numbers mean? However a young child would have experienced numbers before they reached 3-4 but at this age they do use them during play.
For example I observed a child counting out the stickers she had in her hand, making sure each child had the same number, which was three. If she hadn’t learnt her numbers when she had would she have been able to do that? There is another example I have come across, a child counting biscuits. He counts five and was asked to take two from the plate. He said I cannot because two have chocolate on it. The child was not going to take two biscuits but take the number two biscuit he had named two. Did this boy just not understand the question or does he not understand numbers?
Counting is known as rote counting, and in order for a child to really know numbers you should ask them what number is after five, or what number is before eight. This is considered a large mathematical milestone and research has shown a child who goes to school who cannot count will struggle. Savell & Davies (2001) believe every time a child joins in counting the foundation is being laid for the future in mathematics. Numbers lead to more complex mathematics such as algebra. Algebra is when you recognise and respond to a number pattern, which can lead to logical- mathematical the manipulate numbers and solve logical problems.
Children may need to experience illogical thinking before they can make sense of the logical world (Miller & Church ,2003). A child learning if they eat all their dinner they will be offered dessert. This is an example of a child learning algebra, but is it? They have learnt problem solving, logic and reasoning skills, which are elements that make up algebra but not algebra itself. Problem solving is part of the ministry requirements “ exploration goal 3, “ confidence in using a variety of strategies for exploring and making sense of the world through problem solving (Ministry of Education, 1996, p 88).
Problem solving is a great skill for children to learn it’s a cognitive skill that helps develop mathematical learning. When being a teacher we must be able to give the children time to problem solve. Children need to take time to trial and make errors (McNaughton & Williams, 2009) Statistics is another form of maths and you can see children of all ages implementing within their play. For instance a child may decide to gather all the green bottle tops into one area and the blue into another. This is known as sets in the mathematical term.
Teachers are able to enhance children’s development in statistics by the positioning of materials and equipment. Meaning you could have the bottle tops in different places in the room and the children will be able to gather, collect and organise their findings (McNaughton & Williams, 2009). A child choosing this activity has been able to to make their own decisions, choose their own materials and set their own problems and playing with the resources and materials can be a valid approach to learning (Ministry of Education, 1996).
Measurement can be taught through many ways but the most seen within our centre is measuring volume through open ended materials. This is seen with all ages from infants to young children. We provide the children with containers, small, large, round, square, tall, short fat and slim. With many different types of containers you see children fill there container and try to pour the water into another. The children may not fill the other container but will persist to fill. They try again into the smaller container and wonder why water over flows.
Although the children may not understand how volume works, they have started to see how things may be a different size to what the eye may perceive. This is the child learning logic and reasoning skills (Miller & Church, 2003). Being able to give children the ability to explore measurement through water play is giving the children the confidence to choose a mathematical activity they are interested in and to play around with ideas and materials (Ministry of Educations, 1996). Geometry have different concepts such as angle and dimension.
Children learn geometry through pictures and drawing. Infants see only shapes when they are first born. Toddlers and young children are at an age where they are able to start drawing. They may draw circles, lines and shapes, which is a two dimension. They will soon learn how to draw in three dimension, which will make drawers more real. Young children soon start to see the different between shapes, such as how many side each shape has. They will do so by using the numbers they ave learnt over the years.
Children should be able to explore and express themselves through art, which develops and helps them problem solve by learning how to draw a shapes (Ministry of Education, 1996). During research children who have attended early childhood education have a better understanding and knowledge of mathematics. Children who have spend most of the first five years at home or watching TV have shown they will be less likely to be able to progress in maths. In New Zealand mathematical books and games have been open to public in order to help and support the community to develop their child’s mathematical skills (Drewery and Bird, 1998).