Why early math is just as important as early reading

Research suggests early math skills are a better predictor of academic success than early reading skills — but preschools aren't teaching them.

What grade do U.S. preschools deserve in math instruction?

Answer: F (At least most of them.)

Math is nearly absent in American preschools and prekindergarten classes. One study calculated that at preschools where kids spend six hours a day, math gets an average of only 58 seconds per day. Not even a full minute.

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How to teach your preschooler shapes and spatial skills

An understanding of shapes, sizes, and relative places will help your little one in more ways than you might think.

Does your child build tall towers that crash all over your living room floor? Perhaps you find puzzle pieces everywhere? Or maybe your child’s favorite board game tokens always end up on the stairs and never back in the box?

Before you snap, keep in mind that this type of play is more than fun and games: it’s called spatial play, and it’s key in building your child’s sense of size, space, shape, position, direction, and movement. These skills may only seem important in the abstract, but they’re actually crucial in kindergarten as they affect your child’s early math skills and your child’s ability to follow directions.

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Cool ways to teach your preschooler patterns

Mathematical learning begins naturally very early in life with patterns — which happen to lead to great ways to engage your child as well as boost early math skills.

Is your young child drawn to music, shapes, and colors? Most are, and it’s their natural inclination toward math. This math know-how emerges from your child’s experiences — like clapping along to songs — right alongside other developmental milestones— like being able to clap.

Yes, even babies learn math concepts early on, and it all starts with patterns.

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Your preschooler, writing, and the Common Core Standards

What are pre-writing skills? Learning letter sounds, listening, speaking, drawing, and scribbling their names are all big parts.

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Getting your preschooler ready for Common Core math

Wondering what your child should know before kindergarten? These are the 8 basic math skills your preschooler should learn.

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Inside the preschooler’s brain

"No! I don’t want to! Waahwaah!"

Good news, parents. If this sound eerily like your preschooler, don’t fret. Neuroscientists do not regard the shrieking lamentation as proof that your child is a "spoiled brat." A more accurate definition of the garden-variety tantrum is that the preschooler’s still-developing brain is overwhelmed by mental demands.

In other words, it is part and parcel of their cognitive stage.

The grey matter of three to five year olds is a rapidly-growing, dynamic, fluid, spontaneous, amazing work-in-progress that is . . . still quite unreasonable. 

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Five Fun Playground Games with Preschool Kids

I played in parks with kids for hundreds of hours at three preschools I founded in San Francisco (Bernal Kids Co-op, Mission Kids Co-op, and Camp Fun-Run-Run). Generally, we played games I “made up.” Below are the five favorites. 

Stop the Cow: Excellent, rough exercise for everyone, especially the “Cow.” Here’s how you do it: The teacher - or any “big person/grown up” - gets down on all fours and announces s/he is a very hungry cow that wants to eat a distant bush, tree or flower. (40-50 feet away is an ideal distance). The children’s job is to stop the cow from getting there. Cow starts crawling and “Mooing” while children frantically try to halt its forward progress by hanging onto the “hooves” (arms and legs) climbing on the back and neck, pushing Cow’s head and shoulders backwards, or shoving sideways to “tip the Cow.” Teamwork is necessary, plus strength and cleverness. A kind Cow can always let the children win by collapsing dramatically right before the goal is reached. 

Catch The Mouse: Very active “chase” game. Teacher starts as the Mouse, children are pursuing Cats. Teacher tucks a rope or cloth into the back of their pants, to serve as the Mouse Tail. Teacher holds her/his hands up by the side of her/his head, to be big Mouse ears. Teachers yells “Squeak, Squeak!” and starts running. Kids shout “Meow! Meow!” and try to catch the Mouse, by snatching off the Tail. Any child who can successfully grab the tail off can be the next Mouse, but oftentimes, the children prefer that the exhausted Teacher is permanently the Mouse.

Raining Pennies: Great game for eye speed and hand coordination. Bring all the coins in your penny jar; its ideal to have about 100. Sit at the edge of the playground sand pit, with the children at least 15 feet in front of you. Yell “It’s Raining Pennies!” and throw about 20 pennies up in the air, so that they land in the sand. Their downward velocity will make most of them “disappear.” Shout “Find the Pennies!” and have the children run forward and dig, to search for the vanished copper. The children will quickly learn to train their eyes on 2-3 pennies, and excavate in particular spots. Still, they’ll be lucky to find 50% of the pennies. You can either have the children return the cons to you (so the games can go on longer) or they can keep the treasure they found - it’s affordable. 

Be Quiet, You Elephant: Teacher is the Elephant. Teacher kneels in the sand pit. Teacher holds one arm by their head, as a trunk, and starts bellowing. The children want the elephant to be quiet. They yell, “Be Quiet, You Elephant!” To shush up the pachyderm, they have to put the end of the beast’s trunk into the sand. They will jump and try to get the trunk, but the Elephant is too tall for this to succeed. Elephant taunts the kids with this possibility, though. The kids will also climb up the shoulders and the back of the elephant to get to his trunk. (don’t let them get too rough) Eventually, a generous Elephant will let the children succeed.  

“Don’t Call Me Mr. Shoko”:  Active, loud, and mischievous chase game. Teacher explains to the children that they are playing a pretend game. In the game, the Teacher is a Monster, who can only be defeated if s/he is called “Mr. Shoko.” The game begins with the teacher acting Monstrous, roaring and scary. The kids say, “Stop it, Mr. Shoko.”  Monster covers his ears and begs, “Please, Don’t Call Me Mr. Shoko, or I will fall down.” The kids yell “Mr. Shoko, Mr. Shoko!” Monster runs away, begging “Don’t Call Me Mr. Shoko!”  Children pursue, chasing and chanting “Mr. Shoko, Mr. Shoko, Mr. Shoko!” The game ends when the Monster is stumbles, collapses, and is surrounded, defeated by the Name-He-Cannot-Stand-To-Hear.