Okay, so this is a language arts blog and I’m venturing into new territory here but I think I have something to say as someone who has taught Kindergarten, First, and Second grades sequentially.

Elona in Teachers at Risk posts about the results of a study in the Journal of Development Psychology which finds that success in kindergarten mathematics are the greatest predictor of future academic success.

Elona encourages parents to work with their students at home on math skills.

I’d like to elaborate on what would be helpful for parents and teachers to teach their children in terms of math in the elementary grades.

Very often teachers and parents teach students to count and then are satisfied that their studentsÂ know their numbers.Â When a student recites the alphabet we know that they will still need explicit phonics instruction but when a child counts to ten we often accept their number concepts as complete.

Do teach your students to count but also help them to understand what the numbers mean.Â For example, how about the number 3?Â It’sÂ 2 and 1 more.Â It’s 2 less than 5.Â It’s one more than 2.Â It’s one less than 4.Â You can teach this by placing 3 dots on a piece of paper and working with your child to notice these things.Â Very few kindergarten students, in my experience, have such a deep knowledge of any of any of the numbers.Â As adults we’ve developed these concepts already but children would benefit immensely from learning these number concepts early.Â Imagine how it would help with learning addition, subtraction, multiplication, etc.

Emphasis should be on understanding number concepts and simple problem solving more so than on memorization.

Mathew,

Thanks so much for sharing your insights as a primary school teacher. It makes perfect sense to me when you say kids need to understand number concepts. I wonder why I thought counting was enough? I guess I was focusing on reading more than math literacy. Now that I teach kids who need extra support with math, I see first hand how important understanding concepts is. After all, they can use a calculator. Sometimes I get stuck on the fact they don’t remember their times tables or how to do long division. I should really be talking about the concepts. Thanks for making me see that.

Elona,

Just to be clear…I wasn’t saying that you specifically were focusing on counting too much. I’m talking about my general experiences with primary teachers and their parents.

Mathew,

I think that I was so concerned with finding easy for my kids to remember the math rules -BEDMAS to help them remember how to do the math. It wasn’t until I sat with kids and used the fraction circles that I understood the challenge of teaching my students who need extra support. They have to understand the concepts before they can get to remembering the rules for doing anything. A rule is empty if they don’t understand the concept. I finally got the concept for teaching these grade nine kids who need extra support in math. It’s all about the basic understanding first.

Thanks for making me think!

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