Math Conversations for Infants and Toddlers

Will feeds Maya, his 8-month-old daughter. He stops for a time, and Maya signals «more.» Will laughs. «Would you like more?» Okay, here it comes!» When the dish is empty, Will states and signs, «All gone.» Maya ate her meal. Everything is gone.» Maya grins at him.

Children learn maths concepts and abilities at a young age. Babies begin to establish concepts about maths the minute they are born, via ordinary encounters and, most importantly, interactions with trustworthy people. Language—how we communicate to infants and toddlers about numerical concepts like more, empty, and full—matters.

Maths is everywhere!

We use fundamental maths terminology all the time without even realising it. When we separate garments by colour, for example, we are employing the arithmetic principles of sorting and categorising. When we maintain score during a game and calculate how much our team is ahead or behind (number and operations), or when we offer someone instructions to move from one area to another (spatial connections), we are using math. We regularly employ comparison terms (measuring) such as large and tiny, and we utilise patterns to illustrate the order of everyday routines and activities («We brush our teeth after breakfast»). We play activities and sing songs about numbers and counting with our kids (such as «One, Two, Buckle My Shoe»).

Even without our assistance, newborns and toddlers utilise arithmetic ideas to make sense of their surroundings. For example, Maya signals when she wants more food. More is one of the first mathematical ideas that infants grasp. Babies inform us, often dramatically, that they can discern the difference between familiar and unfamiliar people (sorting and categorising). Toddlers attempt to climb into boxes of varying sizes (spatial connections) and repeat words and phrases from known stories or songs (patterns).

Through math speak, we can make everyday math visible to youngsters. Every day presents us with several possibilities to assist youngsters enhance their comprehension of maths topics.

Fundamental mathematical ideas

When we are aware of early math principles, we may be more careful in our daily interactions with newborns and toddlers. Here are five fundamental maths principles that may be included into our regular talks with babies and toddlers.

1. Number and operations—understanding the notion of number, amount, order, different ways of representing numbers, one-to-one correspondence (that one thing corresponds to one number), and counting.

«You and your bear both have two eyes.» Let us count: -1, 2.»
«I have more crackers than you do.» As you can see, I have 1, 2, 3, and you have 1. I’m going to eat one of mine. Now I have the same as you!»
«That’s the third time I’ve heard you say mama.» You’ve said mother three times!»

2. Shapes and spatial connections (geometry)—recognizing and labelling shapes, comprehending the physical relationship between oneself and other items, and the relationships between objects.

«Look, Jason went under the climber and Aliyah is on top!»
«You’re sitting next to your brother.»
«Some of the crackers we have today are square, and some are round.»

3. Measurement—size, weight, amount, volume, and time.

«It’s difficult to move the chair. It’s hefty.»
«You slept for a long time today!»»Let us see how many steps it takes to get to the mailbox.»

4. Patterns, relationships, and change—recognizing (seeing the relationships that make up a pattern) and/or generating repeats of objects, events, colours, lines, textures, and sounds; comprehending that things change over time and that change may be stated using math terms. These are the fundamental building blocks of algebra!

«Daddy has stripes on his shirt—white, blue, white, blue, white, blue, white, blue.»
«Let’s clap to the beat of this song.»
«I put the blocks in the bucket; you dump them out.» «I refilled the bucket with blocks; you empty it!»
«Our plant appears to be growing higher today. I believe it grew overnight.»

5. Gathering and organising information—gathering, sorting, categorising, and analysing information (data) to help make sense of what is going on in the environment.

«Let’s put the big lid on the big bowl and the small lid on the small bowl.»
«You always smile when Mommy sings to you!»
«Let’s put the dolls in the basket and the balls in the box.»

Try it

Routinely discuss maths with your youngster. Diapering, dinner and bath times, neighbourhood walks, and shopping excursions, for example, are perfect moments to count, point out shapes and sizes, discuss patterns, and express how objects are the same and different.
Make a list of maths discussion terms and phrases. Put it on the refrigerator or someplace else you’ll see it to remind you to take advantage of maths discussion chances.

Math discourse increases infants’ and toddlers’ everyday learning experiences. You’ll be shocked at how much kids know and can learn. Your math discussion today can help your children be successful in math as they grow older.


Number sense in infancy predicts mathematical abilities in childhood
Links Between the Intuitive Sense of Number and Formal Mathematics Ability
Number sense in human infants
Preschoolers’ precision of the approximate number system predicts later school mathematics performance
Preschoolers’ precision of the approximate number system predicts later school mathematics performance

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