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How to foster early primary math skills? In search of book/curriculum recommendations.

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 

I have a four year old daughter who is verbally advanced and reads fluently. Both my husband and I are avid readers, so we have always encouraged her early interest in reading. Neither of us set out to teach her how to read, but at some point when she was three, she became interested in reading on her own and she would constantly ask us, "what does this say?" until eventually "things clicked" and she could read novel words by herself. Since then, we have encouraged her love of reading with frequent trips to the library. We have so many books out at a time that I feel like I am single handedly supporting our public library in the form of late fines.


We recently bought her a bunch of the Usborne "see inside" books we found used: "See inside Science", "See inside how things work", etc. This morning, we cracked open "See Inside Math," and she was instantly enchanted. I was surprised by how fast she picked up on the concepts in the book, considering I have not explicitly taught her very much math at all. For example, she instantly grasped that the number line is infinite, and pointed out, "But the ABC's are not like that because Z is the final letter." She understood odd vs. even numbers and divisibility by two. After discussing the concept of multiplication with her for a couple of minutes, she got the idea and could model multiplication problems with little groups of toys. Then she spent some time checking multiplication scenarios with the answers in the book's times table, and was tickled that they always matched. After I stopped exploring the book with her, she continued reading about the more advanced concepts on her own, and even though she couldn't understand these, she seemed engrossed.


I know this display does not make her a math whiz. However, I do think that we have overlooked her possible interest in math because her verbal abilities developed so early and we recognized them first. We mainly think of her as a verbal kid because of her vocabulary and reading, but she also loves to build and has always been into machinery and science, so math would be a natural extension of that interest. Besides, even if she turns out *not* to be gifted at math, I've realized it's important for parents not to neglect math education in our girls, because society already does that.


So, how should I foster a child's early math ability? Encouraging her verbal ability just comes intuitively to me, but I really have no idea where to begin with math. I was expecting to just leave all the math to the kindergarten teacher when she starts school, but I just looked at our state's common core standards for kindergarten math and the concepts seem pretty basic. I'm pretty sure differentiation and gifted education does not begin until at least the 1st grade where we live. She doesn't know arithmetic facts off the top of her head like some other kids we know, e.g., "3+5=8" "9-5=4", though she does understand the concept of addition and subtraction and could count out the answers if I asked her. Would memorizing the facts be a good place to start? Is there a fun way to teach these facts? What are some other good early concepts to teach? Is there a good textbook or curriculum that you would recommend?


Thanks in advance!

post #2 of 14

Play games.


checkers, build up to chess (start with No Stress Chess), dice games, Yahtzee, Monopoly, Sorry, Parchesi, Set, Quirkle, Connect 4, Mancala, Rush Hour, etc.


Cook, double and halve things.  Later do conversions 4 T in a 1/4 c, 3 t in a T, etc, servings, RDA, etc



 Theoni Pappas' "Penrose the Mathematical Cat" and "Math for Kids and Other People Too,"

Hans Enzenberger's "The Number Devil."  (save for later)

Flatland (also save for later)

"The Man Who Counted" by Tahan

post #3 of 14

I asked this question recently for my similar age kid on the main homeschooling forum: http://www.mothering.com/community/t/1394731/suggestions-for-almost-5-year-old-who-likes-math  and I imagine that the ideas will apply to a gifted child as well, with the added option that she can read things herself.


I haven't tried them all yet, but my son loves Miranda's number guessing game. And he LOVES origami right now, which is good fine motor practice as well as geometry and following visual directions. And also likes "buying and selling" stuff with dimes and pennies (if that's too easy for her, you can use all the coins). And microwaving his oatmeal for different numbers of seconds and adding them up.


I think pretty much any strategic board game has the same sort of logical thinking that math requires, even if it doesn't require addition directly.

post #4 of 14

At that age, we used to throw poker chips on the floor at that age and sort them into groups, pairs, etc. We would add, talk about multiplication, use them for skip counting, etc. 


We did the same thing with change and counted it out. We also worked with clocks (digital, traditional) to tell time, or ask questions (e.g. how many minutes, hours, until..?). Once DS was solid on numeracy, I went straight to short equations. I didn't teach math facts, only what the equations meant. He counted on his fingers for a bit then grew proficient about doing it in his head. 


Now, we play math games, logic games, build things, read interesting books about math (Sir Cumference). There is no real timeline, per se. If DS wasn't responding well, or seemed to lack comprehension, I would back off or change my approach. 


Be forewarned, that being advanced in math (and reading for that matter) may cause some issues in early elementary. It certainly did for us- we had to move schools. 

post #5 of 14

Montessori all the way. Montessori spacial and math materials were my daughters best friends when she was 3-6. You can search Pinterest and other sites for ideas you can easily make at home.

post #6 of 14
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the replies, everyone. You all have so many good suggestions on materials, books, and activities. "Penrose the Mathematical Cat" looks amazing, because she happens to adore cats. I should have a closer look at the homeschooling forums for enrichment ideas, even though homeschooling will not be an option for us once she is elementary school age.


I've never thought about board games as math materials before, but she does like to play checkers and chess with her dad from time to time. Coincidentally, I just got No Stress Chess for the two of them to play because my little girl is no match for my husband and she gets so angry about losing. She is such a sore loser. :) The luck element to No Stress Chess reduces the frustration a lot. 


CamMom, sorry to hear that you've had trouble with school. Did you do public or private school? We are a little concerned about that as well as the time gets closer, but are hoping that our public school option will work out for us because the alternatives are so darned expensive.

post #7 of 14

qualia- we did private, but didn't shop carefully enough. We didn't realize that DS was gifted at the time we chose, or even so, what setting might benefit him the most. The school wasn't bad- it just wasn't meeting his needs. His new school commits to differentiation and makes a big effort to engage the student. It's just a better match. You may run into this- not bad schools or curriculums, they just don't meet the needs of talented students-- doubly so if your kid is not the "mature, self directed, buckle down" kind of kid. 


Public may work for you, but look at the gifted or advanced options. A district near ours, does a full day public gifted school and subject pull out for students who didn't qualify but are clearly advanced in reading and math. Really fabulous options- best of both worlds. If it was our district, DS would probably be in public school. 

post #8 of 14

My kids are well served by the neighborhood public school.  Indeed, they are probably better served there than they could be at the private schools that tend to serve the high achieving students (we don't have any that are specifically for gifted kids).  These schools do only in grade differentiation, and they get high achievement from the kids from a very high work load.  My kids instead have significantly more free time (shorter school day and less homework) allowing for enrichment and they have between 1-3 grade levels of acceleration for different subjects.  As it is, they also have disabilities that would make these schools not want to touch them with a 10 foot pole.


Public schools are required by law to be accommodating for student's needs.  While federal law only requires they accommodate special educational needs arising from disabilities, the mindset and flexibility is sometimes also there (or at least attainable) for gifted kids.  It requires careful and persistent advocacy, but it can be done.

post #9 of 14
Thread Starter 

Great to hear success stories about public schools. We have no dedicated gifted schools in our area, public or private. I had assumed private might be good gifted option because of smaller class sizes, which might allow for more personalized attention, but naturally public school would be much easier on our finances. Our neighborhood public school does have a gifted program and differentiation for math and language. Based on the district's online information, I think they only do 1 grade level of acceleration for students identified as gifted. Hopefully this will be enough, because I've heard that the new common core curriculum being rolled out in our state is more challenging than the old curriculum, at least in the later elementary school grades. It's hard for me to really understand how everything works because I'm still an outsider and do not yet understand the school jargon.

post #10 of 14

Learning the eduspeak is a process.  On top of that, each district will adopt an alphabet soup of acronyms.  We deal with IATs, ETRs, IEPs, RTI just for intervention, not to mention the regular ed DRA, DMA, yada yada yada.


Our school's website also indicates that there's only 1 year acceleration for math starting in 4th grade for gifted kids, and no acceleration elsewhere.  My 8 year old DS is whole grade accelerated (eduspeak for "grade skipped") and 2 more years accelerated in math ("single subject acceleration").  The school recently contacted me because they can see it's not enough.  I'm currently thinking about the issue and they're collecting data.  DD has 2 math accelerations, a science acceleration, and we're currently discussing more.  Accelerations are bandaids, and lateral enrichment and careful teacher placement is a must.


Exceptions can be made with the right administrators and careful advocacy.


If you can transfer within your district, I'd recommend you go in and interview the principals of each elementary school to discuss your child and how she might be accommodated as she progresses through school.

post #11 of 14
Originally Posted by Geofizz View Post

Accelerations are bandaids


I'm curious whether this is always so, particularly in math. The reason I ask is that my dd is 4+ years accelerated in math, and it seems to be pretty much perfect for her. She is 10, and in a classroom with a range of 9th-grade learners, a couple of whom are also super keen on math, albeit not accelerated. She's encountering new material that is challenging her a little bit, is pulling in high A's on tests, and she enjoys the classroom activities like brain teasers and group project work. This is a regular public high school classroom with a good teacher, but she's not getting anything special that the other kids aren't other than the radical grade-acceleration.


Maybe it will all blow up at some point, but I don't see it. At this point it seems a lot better than just a bandaid solution. She's thriving and the level of challenge is just about right.



post #12 of 14

We've found that the pace matters the most.  For DD, each acceleration seems great for the first year or two, after which it goes too slowly.  DS' double acceleration lasted 1 semester.  Acceleration into a class of gifted students taught by the gifted specialist has helped, particularly for DD.  DS just divines mathematical laws, so a basic introduction into prime & composite numbers rendered the subsequent semester on manipulating fractions redundant, for instance.  I acknowledge that DS' math ability isn't normal gifted. ;)  He also loves it.  I caught him reading my CRC math tables over winter break...

post #13 of 14

Perhaps that's why this has worked so well for my dd: the school she attends allows students to self-pace, with primarily independent learning and once-a-week group activities. Two of the boys in dd's class have almost finished the course. Dd is hot on their heels, about 70% of the way through, with the school year just one-third complete (we don't finish until the last day of June). Students who finish the course early are welcome to go on to the next, or just devote their independent learning time to other courses, or enrichment.



post #14 of 14
Something like that would be wonderful for my DS. DD had something like that. Royal disaster.

These kids can be hard.

Also, to more answer your question on acceleration, DD's science acceleration didn't improve much of anything because she wasn't allowed to accelerate across all of middle school science. She's demonstrated mastery of the content (it's own issue) and is ready for higher level scientific thought, which does not generally come until late high school. This year we at least have the attention of the science teachers who are working to set things up so that she gets there asap.
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