Early Learning Childcare Learning maths

Early Learning Childcare: Learning Maths

23 June 2024
Posted by: Chelsea

Although not all of us are naturally gifted with numbers, a basic ability to understand and manipulate simple figures is almost essential for survival in the modern world.

In early learning childcare techniques, children are helped to enhance their awareness and skills in this area.

Early learning childcare: Numbers and fear

The majority of children will, from their earliest days, automatically start to learn something about numbers.

This often starts with an awareness of concepts such as ‘more’ and ‘less’ with an associated effort to try and quantify those things. From 12-24 months, babies and toddlers will start to grasp ideas such as bigger and smaller. Many will quickly show an ability to understand that two sweeties are more than one and enthusiastically demonstrate that by preferring the two on the table to the one, perhaps trying to snaffle the one after they’ve just eaten the two!

Around this age, most children will be able to start to count small numbers and although mistakes will be plentiful, progress in their counting and number awareness should increase as they pass 2 years of age.

By around 2-2.5 years, most younger children should be able to count in sequence objects up to low numbers.

Most of this will be trauma-free for parents and early learning childcare specialists but for reasons that remain unclear, at around 3-4 years old, significant numbers of children start to develop an inhibition about working with numbers and what by then they might be calling ‘sums’.

The technical term for this is “numerophobia” although it’s more commonly referred to as “maths anxiety”. Academic studies have found clear measurable evidence for this in children as young as 5-6.

Numbers anxiety is a widespread condition, though not all children are affected and many only experience very mild versions of it. For some though, it can have a severe impact and might significantly delay their development of arithmetic skills.

Extensive research has failed to identify the cause or causes of this anxiety. In a small percentage of cases, it may be attributable to dyscalculia – a condition linked to dyspraxia. Dyscalculia can affect the cognitive centres that work with numbers, meaning that children (and adults) so affected may find it much more difficult to manipulate numbers than other people.

However, in the majority of cases, it is presumed that maths anxiety is somehow contagious and is ‘transmitted’ to children by:

  • parental anxiety and impatience arising from perceptions of slow progress;
  • parental self-doubt relating to personal insecurities with maths;
  • older siblings and others communicating their maths fears to children.

The role of early learning childcare

Our approach will vary depending on the age of the children concerned.

However, we adopt certain principles from day 1, irrespective of the age of the child:

  • numbers are fun and can be used in games/play;
  • everybody can use them – you don’t need to be clever or special;
  • everybody gets them wrong from time to time – that’s fun too;
  • the more you learn about numbers, the easier and more fun they become;
  • nobody ever gets ‘told off’ for making a mistake.

Our approach can’t, in itself, guarantee that children won’t develop maths anxiety.

If, for example, older siblings or friends constantly tell a child that numbers are “hard”, then that can make it more difficult to persuade them otherwise in an early learning centre environment.

So, parental cooperation is often critically important in helping early learning centres overcome any inhibitions and avoid maths anxiety creeping in.

If you’d like to know more about what role numbers and sums play in our programs, why not arrange an appointment to come and see us? We’d love to meet you and discuss this area further.

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