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September 2014 / Manhattan Family / Columnists / Downtown Mommy

Do the math: Teaching your child mathematics at an early age will give them an edge

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It’s back to school season, and for many New York City parents that means back to agonizing over school admissions, interviews, open houses and testing. For the next few weeks and months we’ll all be trying to figure out how to give our kids that extra edge.

Doing so may be a lot easier than many of us think. According to new research, early math skills of preschoolers is predictive of later school success — and may be the best way to help kids succeed in school and in life.

Experts now say that when kids learn math before the age of 6 they become better learners. Surprisingly, learning math early also helps them become better readers, and could even improve their vocabulary more so than by reading alone. And of course, teaching preschoolers math also helps them to be better at … well … math, even up through high school.

Some of you may be thinking, “What’s the big deal? Does anyone really need to be good at math in high school? After all isn’t that why they invented rocket-science school?”

Well, times are changing. In the 21st century, having strong math skills is not just a good idea — it is a necessity. A new study done by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland found that students who do well in high-school math go on to make higher incomes than their less-accomplished peers and face dramatically lower rates of unemployment.

So now that we know how important math is for children, how can we teach it? Well, teaching the little ones math doesn’t have to mean drilling (which turns kids off) or hiring expensive tutors (which can get costly). You can teach your preschooler math at home pretty easily.

Here are three ways to make learning math easy and fun:

Talk about it: Incorporate math into your daily life by using it in your everyday speech. It helps kids to think in math terms and understand that math is useful all the time. For example, instead of saying “You can have strawberries for a snack,” say “You can have five strawberries for a snack.” You can also use language to teach kids about geometry. At breakfast ,you can point out that pancakes are circles, or toast is square.

Read about it: We all know that reading is one of the best ways to introduce kids to new ideas, and math books are everywhere — if you know how to look for them. Even books that we don’t typically consider to be “math” books can be used to introduce kids to basic counting, measurement, and geometry. “The Three Little Bears” could be an early counting book (by counting the bears in the pictures every time you read the story). It is also great for teaching kids about measurement — small, medium, big. With every book you can also point out geometric shapes and even introduce spatial concepts. For example, you can point out that one character is in front of another, or that one thing is bigger than another.

Use math in board games: Board games are great at teaching important skills like turn taking, but it can also be a great way to teach math. One recent study showed that kids who played “Chutes and Ladders” had better math skills than their peers by up to 20 percent (a little extra math for you). So start a family game night. It will help your kids develop important social skills and teach them math.

Notoya Green is a parenting expert and former family law attorney. You can read her blog at www.tripletsintribeca.com. You can also follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/tripletsintribeca and on Twitter @NotoyaG.

Posted 12:00 am, September 11, 2014
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