Sunday, April 10, 2011

Baby Math: Teaching Counting and Geometry with Books

I spend so much time working on letters and prereading skills with my baby bookworm, that I've realized I often ignore another fundamental skill - counting and mathematics.  Apparently I'm not alone though.  According to one of my all-time favorite parent books, Baby Minds by Linda Acredolo and Susan Goodwyn (if you have a child under 3, get this book!), part of the reason that American children lag so far behind other countries in mathematics (namely Japan and China) has a lot to do with culture, environment, and most importantly, how parents "teach" children about math.  In a nutshell, Asian parents place more emphasis on math, do more day-to-day activities that involve math, and believe that their children are more capable of mathematical skills at a younger age.  So maybe we (Americans) can stop blaming the educational system and take a look at what we do with our children at a young age.  I am a firm believer that experiences, and especially early experiences, matter.  The authors of Baby Minds outline lots of fun activities that you can do with your child to help not only their arithmetic but also spacial-temporal abilities (yes, like baby geometry skills).  But, my blog isn't about baby games, it's about learning through books.  Here's some books that I'm using with my baby bookworm to help both of these abilities.  I don't want to fall into the category of American parents who ignore or under represent these important skills!

123 Philadelphia - A Cool Counting Book
by Puck and illustrated by Kevin Sommers

There's no dialogue here.  Just a book of "cool" Philadelphia things to count.  There are many, many, many counting books similar to this one in format (take Olivia Counts for example), but it's just one we happen to have on our bookshelf.  With my baby bookworm I use this book to reinforce the counting concepts of one-to-one correspondence (the notion that each item has it's own counting label), the cardinality rule (the name of last item we count represents the quantity of the entire set of items), and the flexible application rule (that no matter what objects we're looking at, whether it's Philly pretzels or colonial hats, we count them in the same way, using the same counting words). 

Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes
by Mem Fox and illustrated Helen Oxenbury

I love, love this book.  It shows how every baby, even though they are all born in different places, has 10 little fingers and 10 little toes.  It's very fun to count our own fingers and our own toes together, and I often say things like: There are 5 fingers on this hand, and 5 fingers on this hand, they are the "same".  Or, let's count all of our fingers and toes....and then we count to 20. With older kids it might be fun to try some addition here, or to count by 5's! 

Balancing Act
by Ellen Stoll Walsh

This is a cute book about two mice on a seesaw, and as some other friends come along they are either out of balance or balanced ("ta-da" as the books says).  What I like to do with this book is talk about the concepts more, less, and the same.  These words are not in the book, but you'll catch on once you read it.  It's short and to the point, so a great book for babies and toddlers.  You can also do a similar lesson with other books using concepts like bigger and smaller (might I suggest Curious George Bigger and Smaller).

Soft, Fluffy, Playful, Puppies

Yes, so here we are at geometry for babies.  There are lots of things you can do to facilitate your child's spatial-temporal skills.  Nesting blocks are great, as are shape sorters, and of course puzzles!  Baby bookworm has this really cute book about puppies and the puppies come out as puzzle pieces.  I'm sure there are other books with a similar idea.  Be sure to give your baby bookworm time to try to solve the puzzle himself! 

Baby Bookworm's shape sorter

Baby bookworms nesting blocks

Books that have a pattern for a child to figure out would also fall into this category, although I couldn't think of any, so let me know if you have one in mind.  And, of course, so would kid cook books - the mathematical lessons are endless here.  I can't wait to be able to cook with my bookworm.

Have fun!  I hope you find some baby math of your own in your favorite books!

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