Fall is upon us and we are surround by beautiful leaves. Take a break one afternoon and head outside with your children to enjoy the crisp air and try out the following mathematical conversations.
(Note: Ensure that you engage in a conversation and not a quiz with your children. Keep the conversational tone fun and light. Also, never underestimate young children. They may not answer correctly, but the can ponder the questions. Silence is an appropriate response, running away or starting a new game is a sign that the child is all done.)
Before children can understand quantity, they need to understand the concept of “how much” and before they can understand what “how much” means, they need to understand variances of size. If greater to or less than has no meaning yet, than the difference between 2 and 9 will not either (even if they can recite their numbers in order). Build your child’s concept of quantity with the following conversation:
1- Ask your child: “Can you find a big leaf? How about a small leaf?”
2- Place the two leafs side by side and ask your child which is bigger and which is smaller. Don’t be surprised if they answer incorrectly. Just ask, “Why do you think that?”
3- Ask your child to place the small leaf on top of the big leaf. “Can you still see the big leaf?” “Why?”
4- Now place the big leaf on top of the small leaf. “What happened to the small leaf?” “Why?”
5- “Can you find a leaf that is the same size as your hand?” Ask them why they choose that leaf. Don’t be surprised if your young child responds with, “Because it is my favorite color”. Cherish these adorable remarks. Validate where they are coming from and either ask another question to get them to the “right” answer or show them how you chose a leaf that is the same size as your hand. If you shame them or tell them that they are wrong it can shut down the conversation. They’ll figure it out when they are ready!
Colors and Patterns
The ability to recognize patterns is an extremely important skill needed to understand and succeed at math. In fact, success at pattern recognition is a skill consistently seen in people with higher than average IQs. (The Intelligent Nest is a non-noncompetitive nest and we know that IQ isn’t everything. EQ (emotional intelligence) is just as important, if not more important, but a little pattern practice won’t hurt and it can be fun too!)
1- Ask your child, “What color of leaves can you find?”
2- “Let’s sort this pile of leaves into groups of similar colors?” One pile for red, one for green, one for yellow, one for brown, etc…
3- “I am going to make a color train with the leaves. What color should we start with to make the engine? I choose brown next, then red again. Now brown, then red. What color comes next to make the caboose?” If they don’t catch on, then go back to the beginning of the train and tell them that the colors of the cars make a pattern. Go through the pattern slowly, saying, “First red, then brown, then red, and then brown again.” “After brown comes red and after red comes brown.”
4- Older children (3 and up) should catch on and start a new train with more elaborate color patterns. For an added advancement, see if your child can pick up on a pattern that uses the same color twice or three times in a row: red, red, brown, green, red, red, brown, green, etc…
5- Ask your child to complete more of your patterns and have your child make new patterns to complete.