Early Number Fluency Matters: A child's early number fluency predicts his or her later math achievement. (Check out this article.) So building a strong foundation counts—a lot!
COUNTING: A critical early step along a child's math journey is COUNTING. And using fingers to count is very natural and just fine. Click here for article. For example, initially, children tackle 2 + 2 = 4 by COUNTING:
- take one group of 2
- combine it with another group of 2
- count how many in the combined group—1 . . . 2 . . . 3 . . .
ADDING: Next, children start to ADD by recalling known relationships:
- 2 + 2 = ???
- Let me think . . .
- Hmmm . . .I think I remember . . .
KNOWING: Eventually, if retrieved and used enough, a child just knows the answer.
- 2 + 2 = 4!
- This happens so fast, it seems "automatic"
How does a child transition from active adding to "automatic" knowing? Just like any other mental pathway, if the pathway that associates 2 + 2 = 4 gets revisited a lot, changes occur in the brain (involving synapses and myelin) that makes recall faster . . . and faster . . .and faster. If revisited enough, the knowledge becomes "automatic." My favorite book about this is The Talent Code: Greatness isn't Born. It's Grown. Here's How. (Check out this article, too.)
If practice is the path to fluency, it matters what is practiced. For example, if a child never switches from counting to adding, but keeps "practicing," all that happens is that the child gets better at the thing they are practicing--counting. Yet, counting, is inherently limiting. It is a slow and error-prone process. It's too slow and error prone to provide a foundation for higher math.
Counting and adding are both skills a child will still need as an adult. So it's not a matter of abandoning counting, but, when appropriate, introducing adding to a child's repertoire. And, to develop new addition skills to the point they become "automatic," the child needs to recall and use these nascent addition skills again and again and again.
SMILING DOG® Math Books are here to help kids have fun building a strong math foundation: