Day 5: Your Budding Mathmetician

Algebra in preschool?!?  I could barely do it in high school, and...what?  Oh.  Not the same thing.  Oh it is the same thing?  Ah.  Beginning.  Right, building a foundation before we build the house.  Yes, yes.  I remember.

Math is beautiful.  Math is fun.  Math is challenging.  Math is everywhere.  Let's get our kids more comfortable with the basic concepts so they'll have a solid foundation as they move into upper grades.  Let's work with them, help them understand difficult concepts, and let them feel the joy of the "Aha!" moment.  Let's close the gap between where our nation is in the world, and where we should be be.  The following toys have been designed to help children better understand algebraic and geometric concepts.  Bonus: they won't know they're learning.  Shazzam!

Melissa & Doug Pattern Blocks and Boards

Tangram Puzzles

These puzzles strengthen a child's understanding of matching, shapes, colors, and spacial relations.  With an adult's help, they can also learn to identify the shapes by their proper geometrical name.

Melissa & Doug Classic Wooden Abacus

Both aesthetically pleasing and practical, an abacus teaches the basic concepts of counting, addition, and subtraction.  Numerous publications are also available to learn the many uses of the Chinese abacus, the first calculator.

Cardinal Double 12 Color Dot Mexican Train Dominoes in Tin

Teach your kids to play a little game of bones!  Fortunately, dominoes is a game they will simply not outgrow.  As a beginner, they can simply match the dots.  Some sets, like the set listed above, color codes the dots, as well, making the game a bit more accessable to preschoolers.  As the child gets older, they can play dominoes "for realsies" by incorporating strategy and logic into their play.
Melissa & Doug Primary Lacing Beads

Lacing beads are an amazing toy for children.  They can understand the geometric concepts of pattern recognition while incorporating the algebraic concepts of addition and multiplication.  As a bonus, your child develops her hand-eye coordination while expressing her creativity.  Finally, she'll experience the enjoyment of quiet, independent play.  She can work on this activity at the kitchen table, and she probably won't need any help.  It's self-directed.  Lacing beads are a GREAT toy!

Melissa & Doug 100 Piece Wood Blocks Set

Understanding the basic concepts of spacial relationships, counting, and matching are key mathmatic concepts. Blocks can help children achieve those goals. The possibilites with blocks are endless! In addition to the mathmatic concepts they'll be learning, they'll also be introduced to concepts in physics like balance (when the structure inevitably falls) and velocity (when they throw them).  They'll also develop fine motor skills.

The epidemic of our anemic performance in mathmatics as our children grow must change.  Interactive toys like these provide a sound foundation for children's learning, but we must continue to encourage our children's engagement in these concepts.  Let's make math cool.  Remember that we don't need to "purchase" items for our kids to experience math on a daily basis.  They can count out 9 pretzels for a snack, they can help bake cookies by measuring and adding ingredients.  They can put toys away based on their age (if you're 4, you can put away 4 toys).  They can figure out how to fit all of their toys in one box.  They can make neclaces from tube pasta.  By introducing them to everyday interactions with math, we'll encourage problem solving through creative thinking.  They'll see that sometimes it's frustrating, but the moment they solve the problem, when they say, "Aha!", makes the challenge more exciting.  As parents, family, and friends, we are obliged to give our children every opportunity for success.  We can do this.