Just recently I attended an Indiana AEYC conference in Indianapolis.  We listened to an first-rate presentation called “Messy Math” by John Funk from the University of Utah.  He gave an excellent list and order to developmentally appropriate progression to learning and understanding math skills and concepts.  Exploring materials was first. I agree!  Children won’t listen to what you want them to learn if they have not played or manipulated the materials first!

Next, was recognizing spatial relationships – over, under, next to, in front of and so on.  This makes total sense as everything else in math comes from relating numbers, pattern, etc. in this way.  I had never really thought of this as being one of the first.  I guess I assumed children would come to school with this understanding.  Again, a plug for oral language as the marrow of reading and math!  I use movement to teach this skill in the classroom first.

John recommended a book, which I plan to add to my library, called “Count on Math” by Dr. Pam Schiller.   She lists the 12 math skills in their progression with activities. These skills are not included in the standards set in the curriculum – so please immerse the children in them.

I have one big concern on this list.  Maybe just a reminder, that the list is flexible to a degree and may also depend on the child’s learning style.  This skill progression should be used as a guide and skills may overlap or combine.  The order is true, but should not be exclusively rigid.  Leave it to a two year old to teach me this!

In this developmental list, recognizing shapes is eighth in the order of development.  I understand that you cannot actually discriminate shapes by how many sides and corners until a child can count, BUT…  And this is a big one; children that have an understanding of spatial relationships and can visual discriminate shapes in nature may get this skill earlier as purely a shape – no counting needed.

Here is how I know!  My two year-old granddaughter says almost every time I see her, “I love your eyes, Mani. I love your earrings, Mani. I love your triangle teeth, Mani!!!!” (These, of course, are my incisors.)  This is not the only example of triangles she sees in her environment.  She has learned her basic shapes and more.  I believe it is because of the language and material richness in her home.  Of course, I am a little prejudice, but when materials mix with play, mix with curiosity, mix with language – Voile!!  Learning happens!!

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