What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think about math?

Is it numbers, formulas, shapes, structures, orders? Everyone has a different point of view when asked, “what is Mathematics”? Because the truth is mathematics is a bunch of aspects and evolves as you grow! Typically, we think we learn about different areas of math and math skills in school. Even though we discovered a large part of our mathematical knowledge from our teachers, mathematics is in almost all aspects of our lives.

In this article, we attempt to answer some of the most common questions and some myths around math:

Mathematics from the eyes of children

When should math skill training start?

Is math hard?

Can math be a fun learning experience for kids?

Is it numbers, formulas, shapes, structures, orders? Everyone has a different point of view when asked, “what is Mathematics”? Because the truth is mathematics is a bunch of aspects and evolves as you grow! Typically, we think we learn about different areas of math and math skills in school. Even though we discovered a large part of our mathematical knowledge from our teachers, mathematics is in almost all aspects of our lives.

In this article, we attempt to answer some of the most common questions and some myths around math:

Mathematics from the eyes of children

When should math skill training start?

Is math hard?

Can math be a fun learning experience for kids?

Do you remember what you recognized and learned first? Here’s how children start learning mathematics, analyzing it from their perspective.

If you thought mathematics started for you in school with numbers, sums, and algebra, you might be in for a surprise. Interestingly, it begins for children at a very young age at home when they start interacting with their surroundings.

If you thought mathematics started for you in school with numbers, sums, and algebra, you might be in for a surprise. Interestingly, it begins for children at a very young age at home when they start interacting with their surroundings.

At two years old, children are starting to make sense of the world. Their visual-spatial skills will be the first mathematical door they will open at this age. What are visual-spatial skills? For Carroll (1993), it is how “individuals deal with materials presented in space whether in one, two, or three dimensions, or with how individuals orient themselves in space”. For Linn and Petersen (1985), it is a “spatial ability generally that refers to skill in representing, transforming, generating, and recalling symbolic, non-linguistic information”. To sum up these fancy academic words and phrases, it is when children will start to perceive the world, forms, shapes in 2D and 3D and patterns.

At three years, besides continuing their journey in the visual-spatial skills world, children will slowly be presented with the numerical world. The numerical world can be non-symbolic as well as symbolic. Here children will start categorizing objects based on quantity, and begin saying the words “one”, “two”, and “three”, knowing what they represent!

At three years, besides continuing their journey in the visual-spatial skills world, children will slowly be presented with the numerical world. The numerical world can be non-symbolic as well as symbolic. Here children will start categorizing objects based on quantity, and begin saying the words “one”, “two”, and “three”, knowing what they represent!

For children in their early years, until around nine years, most often the first thing seen when waking up is numbers – the clock numbers. They begin to grasp how time relates to a clock’s numbers/symbols and start to work out how fast they must be to arrive at school on time. This is one of many daily situations with math. We could even break this situation into smaller ones: how many minutes to put on clothes, eat, brush your teeth, etc. After that, when children arrive in their classroom, they will automatically activate their visual-spatial knowledge: this is my room, this is my place to sit, the chairs are placed in a circle/in a square, each chair is of different forms, etc. Recognizing patterns and forms are also part of mathematics.

Children who do not manage to build adequate mathematical skills, such as counting, during the preschool years will be missing the foundation that is necessary to enhance mathematics later on in life (Bodovski & Farkas, 2007; Gunderson, Ramirez, Beilock, & Levine, 2012; Lefevre et al., 2010).

This illustrates the importance of focusing on these early years if we want to understand the reason (or one of the reasons) for the large number of students who struggle with mathematics (Von Aster & Shalev, 2007).

The preschool years are probably the kernel from which strong mathematical skills can be developed. Thus, students must hone their early mathematical abilities starting from preschool.

This illustrates the importance of focusing on these early years if we want to understand the reason (or one of the reasons) for the large number of students who struggle with mathematics (Von Aster & Shalev, 2007).

The preschool years are probably the kernel from which strong mathematical skills can be developed. Thus, students must hone their early mathematical abilities starting from preschool.

Math, like science, has a bad reputation for being a difficult subject (Robertson & Diskin, 2005). Robertson and Diskin believe that math is not difficult to understand; the problem for them is that we present the material way too fast and at a too abstract level for children to understand. Not only that but the materials and methods used to teach math can make a big difference in children’s mathematical performances.

Considering that 22% to 40% of school children worldwide speak a different language at home than at school (Suárez-Orozco, 2015) and that 3 to 14% have hearing problems (Clark, 2006), using language for explanations may have consequently low mathematical understanding. This can be particularly problematic if we consider the beginning of the school career, where the basis for understanding all other mathematical concepts will be formed.

Therefore, there is a need for effective early mathematics interventions tailored to children’s needs, sometimes even before kids enter primary education.

Considering that 22% to 40% of school children worldwide speak a different language at home than at school (Suárez-Orozco, 2015) and that 3 to 14% have hearing problems (Clark, 2006), using language for explanations may have consequently low mathematical understanding. This can be particularly problematic if we consider the beginning of the school career, where the basis for understanding all other mathematical concepts will be formed.

Therefore, there is a need for effective early mathematics interventions tailored to children’s needs, sometimes even before kids enter primary education.

To increase our vocabulary in a language we expand our exposure to this language in many ways: through reading, talking, and vocabulary programs. In the same way, to increase our knowledge of math, we need to do exercises and increase our exposure to math.

Starting from an early age is the best way to foster math skills. There are plenty of ways to make math learnable and, at the same time, fun. Learning can be fun!

Here are a few most effective ones:

Stimulating board games with parents and other kids.

In nature.

Scientifically validated technological solutions.

Starting from an early age is the best way to foster math skills. There are plenty of ways to make math learnable and, at the same time, fun. Learning can be fun!

Here are a few most effective ones:

Stimulating board games with parents and other kids.

In nature.

Scientifically validated technological solutions.

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Early math skills can be developed in children when playing board games. For many board games, understanding math is essential to the performance of that game. Thus, children will naturally exercise their math skills whilst playing. Some examples of good board games for young children to learn math are: Ubongo, Number Dinosaur (HABA), 4-player shut the box, snakes and ladders, and even easy card games. Children love to play card games because they see their parents playing among adults, giving them a feeling of doing something only adults can do!
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`In nature, parents and teachers can teach children about geometrical forms and shapes. Children can be taught the forms of a triangle, square, rectangle, and circle, and they must find in the natural environment such forms. Later, they can learn about 3D forms and find them in nature, home, and natural environments. Counting in a room or in the forest how many books, birds, or snails you can find is also fun!`

Lastly, technology can be a good tool for learning pre-mathematical skills because it gives children immediate feedback, and they can quickly grasp devices such as tablets. Magrid’s pedagogical learning solution, for example, teaches children pre-mathematical and cognitive skills. It also helps children learn about shapes and forms and use them, change them, draw them, and rotate them… After that, they will slowly be introduced to the non-symbolic mathematical world, where they will decide between objects based on where is more and where is less. Finally, they learn to match amounts with numbers and put them in the correct order! This is the beginning of their mathematical knowledge, but also proven to foster children’s pre-mathematical skills and nurture their motivation for learning mathematics!

Mathematics is a significant part of human logic and thoughts. It gives an effective way to create mental discipline and increases logical reasoning. Mathematical knowledge plays an essential role in understanding the concept of other subjects like science, social studies, and even music and art. A research study (backlink) by Dr. Tanya Evans at Stanford University proved that students who more frequently solve math problems daily have higher logical skills than those who solve the problems less. However, how children start interacting with math is quite fascinating and is something education professionals and parents need to know to ensure the best learning outcomes and help children succeed.

Carroll, J. B. (1993). Human cognitive abilities: A survey of factoranalytic studies. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Bodovski, K., & Farkas, G. (2007). Mathematics growth in early elementary school: The roles of beginning knowledge, student engagement, and instruction. The Elementary School Journal. https://doi.org/10.1086/525550

Clark, Morag (2006). A practical guide to quality interaction with children who have a hearing loss. Plural Publishing. ISBN 9781597567114

Gunderson, E. A., Ramirez, G., Beilock, S. L., & Levine, S. C. (2012). The relation between spatial skill and early number knowledge: The role of the linear number line. Developmental Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0027433

Lefevre, J. A., Fast, L., Skwarchuk, S. L., Smith-Chant, B. L., Bisanz, J., Kamawar, D., & Penner-Wilger, M. (2010). Pathways to Mathematics: Longitudinal Predictors of Performance. Child Development. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8624.2010.01508.x

Robertson, W. C., & Diskin, B. (2005). Math. National Science Teachers Association.

Suárez-Orozco, M., & Suárez-Orozco, C. (2015). Children of immigration. Phi Delta Kappan, 97(4), 8–14. https://doi.org/10.1177/0031721715619911

Von Aster, M. G., & Shalev, R. S. (2007). Number development and developmental dyscalculia. Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology, 49(11), 868–873. http://doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-8749.2007.00868.x

Bodovski, K., & Farkas, G. (2007). Mathematics growth in early elementary school: The roles of beginning knowledge, student engagement, and instruction. The Elementary School Journal. https://doi.org/10.1086/525550

Clark, Morag (2006). A practical guide to quality interaction with children who have a hearing loss. Plural Publishing. ISBN 9781597567114

Gunderson, E. A., Ramirez, G., Beilock, S. L., & Levine, S. C. (2012). The relation between spatial skill and early number knowledge: The role of the linear number line. Developmental Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0027433

Lefevre, J. A., Fast, L., Skwarchuk, S. L., Smith-Chant, B. L., Bisanz, J., Kamawar, D., & Penner-Wilger, M. (2010). Pathways to Mathematics: Longitudinal Predictors of Performance. Child Development. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8624.2010.01508.x

Robertson, W. C., & Diskin, B. (2005). Math. National Science Teachers Association.

Suárez-Orozco, M., & Suárez-Orozco, C. (2015). Children of immigration. Phi Delta Kappan, 97(4), 8–14. https://doi.org/10.1177/0031721715619911

Von Aster, M. G., & Shalev, R. S. (2007). Number development and developmental dyscalculia. Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology, 49(11), 868–873. http://doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-8749.2007.00868.x