“Math talk” encompasses words that touch on concepts such as counting, measurement, operations, and comparing. The more you use words like more, shorter, plus, and pattern with your little one, the more those words will become a natural part of their vocabulary.
A vocabulary of math words grows just like any other vocabulary: As your toddler hears and uses math-related words, they begin to understand their meanings. Using math words during everyday activities with your toddler helps to lay a foundation of math concepts, which research shows can help children feel more interested in and prepared for math learning in preschool.
Here are some of the ways math words work wonders:
They build spatial awareness and measurement concepts.
Spatial awareness tells us our position relative to objects around us, and the relative position of objects to each other. It involves understanding the concepts of direction, distance, and location. This takes a while to master, but your toddler has a basic spatial understanding around age 18 months. Pointing out shapes in toys or throughout the house, talking about directions as you drive, and using words like around, under, or on top of to describe objects’ locations are excellent ways to build spatial vocabulary. You can also touch on measurement with words like tall, small, farther, or heavy.
They teach number concepts.
Numbers are the basis of math. Fortunately, many toddlers have a natural interest in learning to count and use numbers. It’s easy to count wherever you go, whether you’re exploring the library and count how many books your toddler chose, or count how many graham crackers you gave for a snack. You can also weave in words that compare numbers and quantities, like more, less, fewer, many, and little.
They explore patterns.
Patterns are everywhere (even in everyday routines!), which is why it’s so easy to talk about them when you’re doing activities or playing with your child. Patterns are more concept than vocabulary, so describing patterns you see or do is the best way to drive this skill home. For example, you might say, “Black, white, black, white» when walking across a checkered floor.
They help children understand simple operations.
It’s not too early to work on simple math problems. You can start by weaving them into regular activities. For example, “I have four crayons, and you have two. If I give you this crayon, we will both have three.” It will be a while before your child understands operations words, like plus, minus, add, and total, but you can still start building this vocabulary along the way.
They help children problem-solve.
In any form, math gets children thinking. As you compare the size of two stuffed animals or talk about patterns you see on your floor tile, your toddler’s thinking wheels turn as they practice analyzing information and using it to solve problems.
The best thing about math words is that once you get into the habit of using them, you can do it during virtually any activity of the day! If you’re using BabySparks, you’ll find tons of fun activities incorporating math concepts.