My son Egan turned 4 today. Conversations with pre-school parents about kindergarten choices abound. All too often these lead quickly into conversations about how much one’s child is reading or whether or not said child knows his/her letters and sounds. Our society’s focus on reading is troublesome to me. I mean, I’m all for reading. Egan is obsessed with books and insists that we read to him at most meals in addition to having time to read with both of his parents before bed. Often before school we head to a cafe and read over ‘coffee’ (steamed milk and honey in his case). But I find that few families of kids this age think about how to pass on a love of mathematics in the same strategic way that they think about reading development.
Can Egan read? Yes and No. Depends on your definition.
He received many sets of Legos for his birthday and was following the directions.
When he got to this one, he paused.
He said, “Mom, that’s a funny direction.”
I asked why (meanwhile I was dreading finding 50 of these pieces with him).
He excitedly said, “It says the next thing we do is give 5 hugs and kisses!”
His ability to come up with a definition of what it means to have a quantity alongside a ‘word’ was exciting.
I share this as today in the mail I received my copy of Moebius Noodles, a new book by Yelena McManaman and Maria Droujkova on wonderfully creative activities to do with young children to develop their mathematical minds. I had the pleasure of working with Maria on a web-cast two summers ago and am so excited to share her work.
In the introduction they talk about the four main ways to build the building blocks around the concept of number:
- Subitizing: The ability to instantly recognize quantities without counting.
- Counting: Dealing with objects one by one.
- Unitizing: Using equal groups or units such as in multiplication or division.
- Exponentiating: Self-similar structures such as fractals.
They go on to say that most US curriculum for young children does little or no work with unitizing or exponentiating which leads to difficulty later in elementary school math. Egan is lucky–most every night at dinner he asks what my students learned that day in school. I have found ways to show him algebra and geometry concepts in ways he can understand. That’s what this book is all about. I have only just begun reading it. You should too.