At what age should a child know how to count? To 10, 20, 100? At what age should a child be able to add basic numbers? Subtract them? At what age should fractions be introduced, or probabilities?
According to the school district each skill should happen at a certain time – for all students. For this reason I believe many parents don’t ‘allow’ their children to learn the skills earlier. Not purposefully mind you, but rather because it doesn’t occur to the parents that their child is capable of learning them.
Ella at close to 4.5yrs can count to twenty on her own, possibly farther. But that is nothing remarkable the majority of three year old I know can count to twenty. She also adds and subtracts number 0-12 easily, sometimes she uses finger, dots, or some other item to assist, other times she does it in her head. She has a basic understanding of fractions, and is beginning to learn probability.
She enjoys eating sandwiches for lunch. She can practice adding and subtracting as she eats piece by piece. When I cut the sandwiches into different proportions she can practice fractions. As well as adding and subtracting fractions. If you had 8/8 and ate 3/8s, how many are left? If you had five, and have eaten three, how many were there when you started? She’s interested in the ideas, so she plays along. If she weren’t interested we wouldn’t continue, but she is, so we do.
Most recently we introduced her to one of our favorite board games, “Settlers Of Catan”, the board is made up of hexagonal tiles and each tile has a number placed on top. Under the number are dots. The number of dots represent the probability that each number may be rolled, based on the number of different combinations possible with two dice, with 8 and 6 being the most likely to be rolled. We explained the dots to her and took turns placing settlements with her going last so she could place both her houses at once. She choose well. The next time we played she wanted to place first so she could choose the best settlement placement.
We could take the basics a step farther and write down the numbers as we roll them, then at the end of the game see which numbers were actually rolled most often. We could keep that tally and see after 3 games, 5 games, 10 games which numbers really had the highest probability. If 6 and 8 weren’t rolled most often we could discuss possible reasons why.
Next we’ll work on geography. We’ll play “Ticket to Ride” – a game where you build train routes from one city to another. Besides geography it’ll also reinforce colours, numbers, and introduce some complexities of risk taking: taking more time to get lots of points at once, or taking less time and getting several smaller points.
Besides the skills mentioned, the games also teach other skills, but most importantly it provides a fun way for our family to spend time together doing something we all enjoy.