Math Building Blocks

Math Building Blocks

Starting you child's math learning journey.

When learning something new, we start from the beginning. We risk building our understanding on shaky ground and misunderstanding if we don't. 

We should help kids learn math skills by following the same principle, but do you know the basic building blocks of understanding math?

If you know these, you can help your child in the following ways:

  • Ask questions that guide and make kids think
  • Come up with relevant examples to help kids overcome sticking points
  • Identify if misunderstandings or mistakes are what lead to kids' errors
  • Support how your child learns at school rather than confuse them

We typically think of there being six building blocks for early math understanding. In this post, we're going to look at what they are. In later posts, we'll go into detail about each one.

What should you know about the building blocks?

You should know the correct name for the concept and how it relates to the math your child is doing. Knowing will help you understand what your child's learning goals are and make it easier for you to understand supporting materials and apps.

How should you use this knowledge?

Keep linking back to it as you support your kids. Demonstrate how they can use these concepts to solve problems and build further knowledge.

What are the building blocks as they relate to early learners?

Cardinality — the quantity of things a number represents — expressed by the last number kids say when they count a group

Comparison — numbers are greater or lesser than others, and kids can compare them

Composition — kids can split numbers into one or more groups in different ways, which links with addition and subtraction

Pattern — spotting predictable outcomes in sequences of numbers, shapes and other representations

Shapes — kids knowing the names of shapes is important, but so is visualising the effects of combining them and moving them

Measures — even before kids learn the details about inches, centimetres, kilograms, and other units, they should recognise that they can compare objects using different properties and express these as numbers.

How can you help kids learn and apply these concepts?

Physical resources such as counting blocks, paper and scissors, and dedicated learning toys are great as they help kids link abstract ideas to physical objects.

Digital resources, like educational apps, inspire kids to learn, provide support when you can't give your time, and help kids understand that math problems can be represented in different ways.

Whether your kids are early math learners or further along their learning journey, it is important that you, as a parent, understand the essential concepts. These form the basis of all other math knowledge, and problems in understanding new topics often come from an insecure grasp of an earlier one. The following articles in this series will help you.

Early Math Learning Concepts - How many? - Part 2

Early Math Learning Concepts - Comparing Numbers - Part 3

Early Math Learning Concepts - Patterns - Part 4

Early Math Learning Concepts - Shapes - Part 5

Early Math Learning Concepts - Measuring - Part 6

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