Mathematical Milestones: From Recognizing Number Order to Playing Shop
January 15, 2016
Today I'm kicking off a new series. I've been sharing my daughter's milestones on her path to literacy. But as I've expanded the focus of my blog, I realized that I've been remiss in not also sharing her milestones along the path to numeracy. So I'm going to recap a few here, and then share them going forward.
I actually remember the first milestone quite clearly. It must have been about two years ago. We were in a parking lot in Monterey. There were numbers painted on the parking spaces. She pointed and said: "Look! They're backwards." I assumed that she was commenting on the fact that from the way we were standing, the numbers were upside down. But no! She proceeded to say: "Sixty-seven, sixty-six, sixty-five. Backwards!" I thought that this was pretty good for her age at the time, and the moment stayed with me.
A couple of other more recent milestones stand out. We have a household rule that if she is ready for bed by a certain time, she can have 20 minutes of playtime. She came up to me a few weeks back holding up five fingers on one hand and four fingers on the other. I said: "9?". She said: "No, Mommy. Four fives. Twenty minutes." Since then, whenever she has to indicate 10 she holds up five and two fingers. Twenty is always four and five fingers. She is positively gleeful about her use of multiplication. Shortly after this, she came to me, very excited. "Mommy! Five twos is the same as two fives!" So it seems she has figured out The Commutative Property. To me it's fascinating to watch these concepts that I've understood for so many years dawn on her, new and fresh.
Last night (and this is more of a game than a milestone) my husband and I were eating dinner. She was finished, so without any help from us, she decided to set up a store. She piled up a bunch of oranges, apples, and bananas, together with a couple of packages of crackers. Then she wrote numbers on some pieces of construction paper and taped one to each type of object. Then she started hitting us up to buy things, using napkins as currency. Her prices were a bit steep ($23 for a box of crackers! $9 for an orange), but we went along.
It was a great exercise for practicing math. I asked for two boxes of crackers, and what that would cost. She first thought $43, but we got her to the right total. Then she had to tell me my change from $50. The bananas didn't fare so well from being played with (and dropped at least once), but it was otherwise a fine game. I liked that she set it all up herself, and we didn't need any fancy props.
One of the reasons I've expanded the focus of my blog is that while my daughter enjoys books, she also seems to like math. I would like this to continue, and I think it's high time I started sharing her progress in that area. Along the way, I'll try to include tips for other parents. My biggest tip at this point is to just turn everything that is remotely related to numbers into a word problem when you talk to your kids.
For example, my husband recently had to go to a meeting in San Francisco. My daughter wanted to know how long he would be gone. I said: "Well, the drive up and back will each take about an hour, and the meeting will take at least two hours. How long do you think he'll be gone?" She first thought "three hours", and I had to tell her to include the ride up and the ride back, but she got there. Then she illustrated her understanding of variability (in Daddy's arrival times) by suggesting that the meeting might run over, and that it might end up being closer to six hours (which was pretty accurate).
Do you all do this? Turn life into a series of math problems for your kids. Or is that just me? Of course I'm exaggerating a bit with this last question - I want it to stay fun for her, and I back off right away if I think that she's feeling pressured or impatient. But I do think that, just as surrounding kids with books and reading aloud to them are key to developing literacy, talking with kids about numbers and playing mathematical games with them are key to developing numeracy.
Thanks for reading! I hope that some of you will find this useful.
© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook.