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When are Children Mathematically Ready?

By Sunil SIngh

I am no psychologist. Just a professional parent and amateur mathematician. But, there is this idea in math education of when kids are “ready”. I find that to be a most arbitrary and restricting concept. The biggest part of learning mathematics is installing curiosity right away, so they will have the interest and confidence to ask a boat load of those awesome WHY questions. I have two kids who are now in Grades 2 and 4. I only have done math with them when THEY requested it. And, I have rarely done anything which is age appropriate. What I have tried to do is for them to enter through the door of algebra as early as possible but also having a tremendous about of silly fun.

If you ask a middle school student or high school student what is 2b – 7b, it will only elicit mild groans. Ask that same question to a 7 year old, it become something odd in an inquisitive way. Just simply throwing into the conversation addition and subtraction of these strange entities–3k+ k, 9w – 5w, 20 bears – 7 bears, 4 gummy worms – 5 gummy worms in isolation creates a comfort of variables and collecting like terms and makes it silly fun. It’s silly because we sometimes dip below zero and now have to total up similar objects.

Again, I am no psychologist. But, I have this gut feeling that introducing ideas which we think are for later at an earlier age creates instant fascination and wonder–how can you have negative gummies??:)

Creating a trail of laughter and fascination has a window of maybe K to 3. I think it is absolutely important that we revisit what needs to be and can be done in these absolutely crucial grades of math education.

I only have interest in my kids liking math. Good? That is such a broad/grey area, which also involves the rest of their life. They are only kids once. Luckily, I have infected my children with the same affliction I had has a kid–hopelessly smitten with numbers.

Balance, equality, and collection of similar things seems to be a concept that can be learned by grade 3. Are there any primary teachers here who had success teaching algebra at very early grades?

Sunil Singh is  a math Is an educator in Toronto with over a decade of leadership experience. He is fluent in four major world curriculums—American, Canadian, International Baccalaureate, and the British ICGSE. He has given workshops on creative mathematics at math conferences, teacher colleges, schools(K to 12), libraries, and even the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. He currently goes around North America giving workshops with a math venture called The Right Angle. He is also writing a book called The Pi of Life: Humanity, Healing and Happiness of Mathematics


About Dr. Dickenson

I am an assistant professor of Teacher Education at National University in San Jose.


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