Getting Ready for Math
Math is kind of one of those milestones. Like reading, or walking, or anything else transformative, it’s the opening of a whole new world.
It’s another language. It’s a starting point and a culmination of previous dedication. It branches off into myriad paths — geometry, physics, logic, algebra — all of which we discount when studying them in school, thinking, “When will I ever use math analysis in the Real World?” and glossing over these skills when we use them every day.
Doubling a recipe? Calculating a budget? Tiling a bathroom?
We solve for x every day. Life is a word problem.
We think the most important thing is to make sure children know numbers. We have songs and rhymes using numerals all day. We count with babies before they can even speak.
All this is incredibly important. Counting bananas aloud at the grocery store for your toddler to hear is so valuable. But it’s not valuable for the counting alone.
It’s valuable because it shows, math is important. Math is alive. Math is all day, every day. Recognizing numerals on the speed limit sign, or a familiar phone number, or making change for a cup of coffee.
Counting those bananas is important, because there are five days of school, so we need five bananas — one for every day of the week. We’re instilling logic and predictability, and that is the best part of math.
Math is special, because there is always only one right answer. There are a thousand ways to write an essay on a particular topic, but there is only one way to answer 2+2. This is what makes it unique — two apples plus two apples, two friends plus two friends, two millions plus two millions, the answer will always, only, precisely be Four.
We want children to be comfortable making mistakes. We make mistakes, big and small, all day long. We won’t always get it right. But this is the deepest learning that happens — in making mistakes. We want children to feel comfortable asking for help, knowing who to ask or how to find the answer, and that getting it right matters.
In the classroom, we want all of that to be in place before we get to math. Math is challenging and intriguing and stretches a child all on it’s own, even without needing to develop task persistence, or the desire to seek out and correct mistakes, or the patience to work through long division.
Often this means waiting for Math until a child shows interest. Of course, Individualized Education and Following the Child, cornerstones of Montessori, mean that we’ll begin only, exactly when a child is ready, no matter their age on paper. It is, after all, just a number, and, as we’ve said, numbers mean nothing without context.
Written by:Charlotte Wood