When you think of STEM, the M (Mathematics) sometimes gets passed over for more exciting topics that involve science, technology, and engineering. However, without the M, the other three become difficult to understand as the child matures. How then, can you help your child appreciate and enjoy the M in STEM? Follow these easy suggestions:
1. Practice sequencing with ordinal numbers. Help your little person know that some things come first, second, third, and last during your busy days. For example, you might say, “First, we are going to the playground; second, we are going to the library; and third, we are going to the grocery store. What happens last?” With that simple two-sentence lesson, your child learns sequencing and will hopefully provide a creative answer to your open-ended question. Try it and see what kind of answer you get!
2. Use simple equations for simple tasks. Most kindergarteners are able to help set the table. Instead of handing out four plates, four plastic cups, and four forks to your little helper, have an educational conversation. First ask him or her to count how many people will be having dinner. This is especially good if someone is visiting, otherwise, the usual answer of “four” will apply. Next, feign a problem. “Oh no! If there are six people here and we have only four clean dishes, how many dishes do we need to wash?” Watch the little brain in action as your child mentally computes the answer. You might even get help drying!
3. Practice using dissimilar objects in your math questions. The last conversation was probably easy for your young mathematician because the only variable involved the plates. With more practice, try mixing it up (with a bit of preparation on your part!). “Today we are going to make a fruit salad. The recipe calls for five different pieces of fruit. Three can have their skins on and two need to have the skins removed. Which fruits will you choose? Prepare your bowl of fruit with apples, pears, bananas, mangoes, grapes, peaches, and oranges. Hopefully your little cook will take some time to figure out the correct answer. This also provides your child with options, which we have blogged about before!
4. Add geometry to your child’s block play. It’s easy to call a structure by its geometric name – a cube, square, pyramid, diamond, triangle, tube, etc. – so your child understands the name of the construction. However, add some higher-level thinking to the mix by asking if he or she can transform triangles into squares, diamonds, pentagons, and pyramids. You might need to put your own creative thinking cap on for this task!
5. Create charts. I may be prejudiced, but I LOVE charts. Charts show you where you’ve been and where you’re going. Charts show you the success (or failure!) of your endeavors. And charts provide a visual representation of mental concepts. Charts naturally can take on the life of a chore chart where you check off completed tasks. But even more interesting is the pie chart when you eat dessert, or a bar chart when you cut brownies! Add a bit of philanthropy to your child’s life and develop a charity chart where you add coins to a bank, charting the days against amounts until you have a designated amount to donate to your favorite cause. Your child learns money, charting, and strong character education values!
Math is everywhere. Look around and you’ll find a bazillion ways to help your child understand and appreciate the M in STEM. Algebra isn't just for Middle School anymore - it can begin even before kindergarten!
Entelechy Education, LLC offers some unique ways to help your child learn early math skills with our family card game, Go Figure!, in our award-winning family cookbook that contains STEM lessons, Everybody Cooks! STEM Facts and Recipes for Family Cooperation and Healthier Eating - Holiday Favorites Edition, and in our FREE FUNtastic Family Stem Activities booklet.
Author: Renee Heiss