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Math Success Tied To Life Success?

April 28, 2014


After enough exposure, there is a perseverance and trust in yourself that you can do it and that trust over time will result in a child not running from situations that are new and different.

Paul Gigante Jr.

children’s writer and teacher of professional development

California Math Council

There are many indicators for success, but some experts believe that a child’s success in math shows success in life. So why not pull some math into your home?

“Everyone needs mathematics to have a successful life, no matter what career they go into,” says Paul Gigante Jr., children’s writer and teacher of professional development with the California Math Council.

Math teaches problem solving skills, first defining the problem, and assessing it by looking at it objectively and then trying to figure it out.

“After enough exposure, there is a perseverance and trust in yourself that you can do it and that trust over time will result in a child not running from situations that are new and different,” says Gigante.

“Math helps with spatial and cognitive understanding, sequencing and cause and effect… it shows you that if you take one away you have less you have more in one hand. One is heavier and one is lighter, it is tangible and it makes children more aware of the world around them,” says Michael O’Brien, a Pleasanton elementary school teacher and father of four young children.

“Children at this age are using their senses and it’s important for kids to be stimulated through tactile response, it’s the basic notion that toy companies certainly understand, as you’ll see toys that have different surfaces. Or you will see it when kids want to play with wrapping paper and tissue rather than the present itself, it’s the tactile responses make them learn in this pre-verbal stage of their lives.”

One direct benefit is that children gain a foundation that future learning can be built on. “

Begin with Basics

“One basic skill a parent can teach their child is counting, however how parents run with that concept is critical,” says Gigante. “We call it number sense. One of the classic myth understandings that we see when a child enters Kindergarten is that they will count just fine to a high number but the problem is they don’t associate numbers with the things they are counting. One to one correspondence is necessary – it’s when you count one number for one object.”

Gigante suggests that parents work with their preschool children in non-threatening, low-pressure situation. Put five cookies out and help them hold a hand and count one, touch the cookie, and within a short time the child will understand the process. Repeat this process with other tangible objects.

Make note of the math and science around you

Parents should not wait for the “teachable moment,” rather find and create the situations, says Gigante. “The idea is that you count everything imaginable with your child so they expect to count everything. Count stairs when you walk up them, count napkins when setting the table, count the seconds it takes them to do a task,” he says.
The same is true for numbers, Gigante says. Exposure to numbers creates familiarity and “positive exposure is very powerful,” Gigante says. “Always point out license plates, look for numbers or patterns, read speed limit signs – show your children that numbers are everywhere. Even an ‘I Spy’ game will have them searching for numbers.

Math is Everywhere

Kelly Pijl, director of external affairs for the Children’s and Families Commission of Orange County, says that her organization has been very interested in how to incorporate the STEM, an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, model of education.

“Math is a better predictor of a child’s educational success than even reading and literacy,” says Pijl. She says that in hopes of introducing more math programs to young children, her organization partnered with Sesame Street to introduce the ‘Math Is Everywhere’ toolkit, which provides (both in English and Spanish) ideas for parents and educators to incorporate math into a preschooler’s everyday experiences.

“From pairing clean socks from the laundry or counting the plates while setting the table, a child is presented with a challenge and then must navigate and come up with a solution. This helps foster the creative process and engages the child while the problem is solved,” says Pijl.

Pijl says that research shows that math and science are earlier indicators to a child’s success and through this program the children become conformable with the concepts so when they start school they are ready to learn what they are supposed to learn at the right age.