Do you recall when we learnt Math as kids. We were told that the more we practice the better we will do in exams. In Singapore, we are all familiar with the “ten year series” – a book filled with Math question after Math question which we laboriously went through. Sadly, many schools and parents follow this same principal when teaching young children Math. They give the children plenty of worksheets and ask them to keep doing them until they get the answers correct. The result is, the children do not understand the underlying concepts.
How should young children learn practice math concepts? Though PLAY!
When your child counts and compares the number of blocks he has with his friend’s, he learns about “more” and “less“. When he combines his and his friend’s blocks, he learns about addition. When he gives away some of those blocks, he learns about subtraction. When he and his friends push toy cars forward to see whose land furthest front, they learn about first, second or third (ordinal numbers). When he cuts a pie to share with his family, he learns about fractions. When your child and his friends dramatize the story of Rapunzel, he learns about long/longer and short/shorter. When he organizes oranges evenly into a few baskets, he learns about multiplication and division.
At a young age, children learn best by manipulating concrete items. Play offers them the hands-on experience they need. When they have built a good foundation with concrete materials, they will then be ready to work abstractly (on paper).
They will not only be able to take what they have learnt and apply it on paper, they will have a strong understanding of foundations.