10 Tips to Building Conceptual Knowledge in Mathematics

From infancy onwards children connect to Mathematics through experiences and daily life. They are learning concepts of size, shape, distance, number and comparisons. These early understandings are crucial for building foundations for developing skills and knowledge, but also for developing attitude, problem solving and Mathematical thinking.

So how can you support this?  Help your child to love Mathematics by modelling and including your child in Mathematics from daily life.  Encourage them to ask questions, to take risks and to be curious by talking about Mathematics in every day life.

Here are ten ideas for doing just this:

1. When shapes, amounts, size or numbers can be compared ask your child’s opinion. Which toy is bigger? Or smaller? Will it take us longer to walk to the park or to the shop? Do you have more strawberries or less strawberries? Look for things you can compare and share these experiences with your child

2. Develop number sense by counting at every opportunity. Our everyday life is full of opportunities to count. When we dress, when we cook, when we walk to school. Ask your child to count how many bikes there are on the corner? Or how many carrots are in the fridge, better still ask them to count and choose the carrots when shopping. Use coins and notes too and ask them to count out daily how many 1 yuan notes there are in your wallet.

3. Solve problems with your child. Puzzles allow children to develop problem solving skills by using strategic thinking and reasoning skills. Ask them lots of questions about how they are solving these problems and this helps them to explain their ideas. Why do you think that piece goes there? What do you think the picture in this corner will be? What colors can you see?

4. Early addition and subtraction skills come from informal experiences using objects. When sharing food (i.e. singular items: fruit, candy, dumplings) ask children to count how many pieces there are in total. If everyone got one apple how many apples in total? How many plates are on the table? How many shoes are at the door?

5. Identify shapes in real life. When walking or in malls or at the park, play games looking for shapes in real life. As children develop their knowledge explore more complex shapes.

6. Cooking offers a range of mathematical learning experiences. Counting ingredients, measuring ingredients, discussing shapes of resources and creations, comparing sizes.

7. Playing games offers children the opportunity to experience through modelling and practice strategic thinking. Pattern games, sharing games, building games。

8. Sorting activities using shells, buttons, coins, ribbons or any easy to handle objects that your family will enjoy collecting. Then at different times sort them by color, size, shape.

9. Pattern activities: identifying patterns in life at an early age help build a foundation for future Mathematical problem solving、

10. Look for Mathematics in story books. Are they discussing size, comparing amounts, counting? Ask your child to look at the numbers on the page and count with you. Ask your child to count a certain object on the page.

Research has shown that children with a positive attitude about mathematics, who value mistakes and see the fun in Mathematics develop greater fluency and confidence. Helping children to see that Mathematics is more than simply calculating broadens their understandings and expectations.

Well known researcher in Mathematics Learning and Teaching Jo Boaler (2013) states, “The core of mathematics is reasoning – thinking through why methods make sense and talking about reasons for the use of different methods” (Please click “Read More”to download the PDF file)  This is why encouraging children to explain their ideas and thinking is so important. For young children this begins by adults modelling this process. When you are using Mathematics skills in daily life tell your children. “Hmm, I do not know if this book will fit into my bag? How can I find out? Can we measure the book and then the bag? What can we measure it with? Our hands. Ok let’s try” This models, and includes your child, in how to solve a problem and use specific skills. The power of involving your child and sharing these experiences can have a big impact.

Just as reading with your child develops a love of books, so can playing and exploring Mathematics in daily life develop a love of Mathematics.

Make Mathematics fun! Celebrate mistakes as learning experiences. Encourage children to ask questions about numbers, shapes, location, pattern and measurement.