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Day after day of watching her big brother Bruce sit at the dining room table working on Math Expressions and Right Start, Jenna has now started regularly asking to “do math” too. She is 23 months old now, and I’m still trying to work on visualization with her in addition to counting.
Jenna can count with correspondence from 1-3 and can also rattle off her numbers to 14. However, I’m trying to phase that part out and work on saying “ten and one, ten and two, ten and three etc.” This is what is suggested in the Right Start literature, and is a new idea to me as an educator. I’m really interested in trying it out, so my poor little girl gets to be my experimental guinea pig!
With Bruce at this age, we worked on counting and that was about it. All of his early math skills were learned at Montessori, and I didn’t begin any formal instruction with him until he was four.
Here are some of the difficulties I’ve encountered trying to teach math to an almost two year old. First of all, Jenna keeps trying to eat the math manipulatives! They are all choking hazards, so I really have to watch her and put them away up high when we are done. The other problem is her eternal asking of the question “Why?” Our most recent math session looked like this.
Me: “Can you give me two?”
Me: “Because Mommy wants two squares.”
Me: “Umm… because one square is not enough. Mommy wants two. Can you count out two?”
Jenna: “One’s nough. One’s nough Mama.”
Me: “No, one’s not enough. Mommy wants two. Please give me two.”
Jenna: “Why? Why Mama?”
At this point in the lesson I decided to just switch back to counting with correspondence. I’ve been using the counting song from Sesame Street and Jenna can now sing along. I’m not sure how much she is learning from all of this, but at least it’s a fun activity to do with Mom.
Jenna and I bought these ABC stickers at the craft-store a few days agof for $3. They are absolutely awful for toddlers, in that they are hard to take off the sheet, and have little holes to punch out to make the letters look right. Oh yeah, and they are choking hazards! But if you get past all of that, then it does become a fun activity to do with a 22 month old. We sat at Jenna’s little table and chairs for about twenty minutes punching out letters and sticking them places, including her paper on occasion.
I started out trying to make simple words with her, like her name and some -at words. Clearly she wasn’t ready for this, so I moved to to simple letter and sound identification. On that, she totally rocked! Jenna now knows almost all of her uppercase letters, and can supply their sounds if you sing the song from the Leap Frog Letter Factory video. “The A says ah, they A says ah, Every letter makes a sound the A says ah.” This turned out to be a really good way to conduct an accurate assessment of what she knows. I feel like this was $3 well spent!
Independent reading is definitely possible for toddlers, and is in fact an important part of their learning experience. I try to make sure that Jenna sits down and looks at books on her own at least five minutes a day. To help facilitate this, she has her own box of books that she can “read” all by herself. I put in familiar favorites, as well as all of our homemade books featuring Jenna personally. She is just at the age where she is starting to memorize passages from books, and so those are good choices for her box too. Having a box of “just right books” is a good idea for kids of any age, so you can adapt this idea for older children too.