Thursday, July 9, 2009

Teaching A Baby Math

I am going to broach on the subject of teaching my son math. Both myself and my husband are strong mathematicians, and it on a scale of 1-10 in importance, I would say that it is a 9 (very very important) that my son be confident in the area of mathematics in general and a 10 that he is very comfortable with arithmetic.

I have read about a few different methods of teaching babies and toddlers math. One method is the Glenn Doman method using quantity dot cards to introduce number and quantity, teach operations, and the ultimate goal of using this method is instant subitizing and calculations.

I will explain a little bit about subitizing. Apparently, young children can perceive a quantity without any outside reference. If you show them a card with 54 dots, they will know there are 54 dots on the card without counting. The problem is, most babies do not know how to name 54 dots, so Glenn Doman's method introduces a name to go with quantity. Adults can subitize as well, but I think my ability to subitize falls apart around 5. I can recognize bigger quantities without counting, but it is likely that I am breaking the amount into groups and adding. I am only aware of this because I've counted/rolled pennies before. If there is only 9 pennies in a stack, I can see 5 and 4, and not 5 and 5, so I will know there is not enough, but not instantly.

The problem with this method is it feels and seems overwhelming to implement. I have made up quantity dot cards up to about 30, and ventured to introduce the quantities to my baby. Most sessions ended in a bit a frustration on my baby's part and a feeling like we were wasting time we could be doing something fun on my part. Glenn Doman recommends to introduce quantity up to 100, and since this is not happening in our program, I am going to reduce this quantity to the very manageable, very realistic amount of 20. It is very cool to see a child subitize 87, and I don't doubt that it benefits the child in the long run to have that aspect of his brain muscle exercised, but it is better that we learn quantities up to 20 than nothing at all. I have been hesitant to begin to teach counting to my son without introducing the concept of quantity first, so if we get the quantities out of the way more quickly we can move on to the interesting stuff.

I would like to teach TJ the following, the earlier the better:
1) Quantities 1-20
2) Concepts of addition, subtraction, multiplication, division using quantities 1-20
3) Numerals
3) Counting to 20 (and higher)
4) Counting by 2s, 5s, and 10s
5) Even and odd numbers

I feel happy about my decision to sort of zero in on what I want for TJ's math education and to be able to focus on that and not let preconceived ideas about what a complete "program" would be make me lose sight of what I actually want my child to learn and what would lead to the level of confidence and comfort that I think he should have. The goal here is not to create a human calculator, the goal here is the educate TJ according to what I believe will be of use to him. I'm glad the Doman program gave me a start, but really, I personally believe that this sort of modification would make the program more accessible. Three cheers to me, for being willing to experiment! It's a total act of faith to follow some one else's program, but having faith in your own ideas about baby education is ok too! Having a firm grasp of arithmetic up to 20, I think, will make higher level mathematics, number theory, etc. more accessible.

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