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A Math Block

A Math Block

posted by Karen Quinn, The Testing Mom - May 25th, 2016

A Math Block

Math Block

Nothing makes my brain turn off faster than to have to do a math equation or even contemplate one.  If you even mention math in a sentence, my brain will turn your voice into Charlie Brown’s monotone teacher and all I’ll hear is “Whah, whah, whah, whah, whah, whah!”

Face It Head On

So, I remember when I had to breach this tedious subject of math with my small children… was something I wanted to avoid like the plague…..or Times Square or the middle seat on an airplane!  But I knew that if I wanted my children to be highly successful, they needed to acquire these skills.  So, I sucked it up, faced math head on and would you believe, I found ways to make math fun for both my kids and myself!

What Can Kids Do? 

What I first had to learn was that many kids are able to recite numbers from one to ten or recognize the symbol for each number even though they don’t understand what the numbers mean.  This is what’s called “verbal and spatial skills,” which are similar to reciting and recognizing the alphabet.  However, it has nothing to do with being able to calculate or reason mathematically.  So, just as it is more important for children to learn pre-literacy skills than to recognize words on flash cards, it is also more important for children to learn the underlying concepts of mathematics than to identify numbers.  What I mean is, they should understand what “more than” means or “bigger than” looks like.

What Can Kids Understand?

For instance, by age three, a child can comprehend basic principles of counting.  For example she knows that each M&M in a pile is assigned one number, that numbers occur in order, that the last number counted is the total number of M&Ms, that you count M&Ms the same way you would count Cheerios, cars, blocks or anything else, and that M&Ms can be counted in any order – left to right or right to left.  And, they learn that anything can be counted….tangibles like pennies, fingers, toes, flowers, people, etc., and intangibles like days of the week, months of the year, or hours in the day.

Math Skills Your Child Needs

With that said, here are some of these mathematical concepts that your child may be asked on intelligence tests to assess their understanding of these ideas:

Pattern and Sequence:  This is the logical, predictable way things reoccur.  When your child hears a story, he learns that it has a beginning, middle and an end.


Ordering:  The organization of things by size.  He learns that numbers are ordered from small to large or he learns to stack blocks from the largest on the bottom to the smallest on top.


Sorting:  The organization of objects and ideas by like attributes (size, shape, feel, color, texture).


Classifying:  Placing like objects together and naming them as a group or set.  A child can group his plastic animals in two piles….one for farm animals and one for wild animals.


Comparing Identification of specific attributes in objects or ideas and evaluation about how they are similar or different.  A child identifies the differences or similarities between apples and oranges.


One-to-one correspondence Giving each object being counted one count.  A child looks at three blocks and touches each one, counting one, two, three.  Before a child can understand that three blocks are the same as the symbol 3 and the word “three,” they must start by counting concrete objects.


Spatial Relations:  The physical relationships of objects and people.  Children learn about geometric shapes (square, triangle, etc.), size (large, small, tall, short), distance (far, near, high, low), position (right, left, above, below), order (largest, smallest), quantity (few, many), volume (full, empty), directionality (up, down, under, over), and time (long, short, quick, slow).

Fear of the Unknown


Whew, are you overwhelmed?  I know I was when I first took on this endeavor of teaching my son math skills.  However, fear not, dear parent, because I did all of the research and work in the math bullpen and as a result, experienced the fruits of our hard-earned labors.  And, actually, it wasn’t hard at all…..that was just my fear of the unknown talking!

Make It Known!


So, don’t let your fear get in the way of starting your child off on the right foot when it comes to mathematics because our brains are hard wired to learn both language and math (could have fooled me!). Resultingly, the best way to help your child master these concepts is to allow him/her to discover them for him/herself through play.  Just as children learn to talk by being surrounded by language every day, soaking it in and unconsciously absorbing the rules of grammar, children also internalize basic math concepts.

Help Them LOVE Math


With that said, here are five great, effective ideas to instill math concepts and the love of math in your child:

*Integrate math language into your everyday conversations.  “What do you want to do first?”  “How many eyes do you have?”  “Take three more bites of spinach.”

*Talk about adding and subtracting things.  “Here’s three cookies….if you eat one, how many will you have left?” “Here’s one apple slice and two pretzel sticks… many snacks do you have?”

*Sort things into groups.  “Let’s sort the clothes by darks and lights.” “Please put the little toys in the drawer and the big toys in the toy chest.”

*Put things in size order.  “Let’s put the books in the bookshelf from smallest to tallest.”

*Compare everything!  “What are the differences between this chocolate chip cookie and the peanut butter one?” “How is this pepperoni slice similar to this cheese slice?”  (sorry for all of the food references….I’m hungry!)


Maybe you’re raising the next Einstein or Steve Jobs or Marie Curie!  And, as Ms. Curie once said, “Nothing in life is to be feared; it is only to be understood.”

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