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Math and Toddlers
Math and Toddlers

by Denise Merkel, Director of Education

Math in the Toddler class? Huh?

...the absorption of mathematical knowledge can be natural, easy and a source of joy: the joy of one who discovers in himself powers that he had not even suspected. Maria Montessori

Mathematics is a necessary and satisfying function of the human mind. It is a language that communicates exact meaning and is at the basis of all practical things. The mathematical mind, as described by Pascal, is a natural phenomenon of human beings and a combination of many aptitudes. In the first three years of life, a child is looking, taking in impressions, organizing them, and giving them names. This period is full of instances of measuring and noticing the properties of everything around them.

In the Toddler community, math is a subtle but real part of everyday work. When the children set the table for their morning meal, they are practicing one-to-one correspondence by making sure that each place has a napkin, a plate, and a cup. The group recites poems and sings songs that have numbers in the refrains. As a child returns materials to the shelf, they must measure distances in order to do so without incident. Folding cloths introduces the concepts of fractions and simple geometry. As the children arrive in the morning they might count who is here and how many are yet to come: addition and subtraction. Between the ages of one and two, most children begin to understand the concepts of "more" and "enough." Some might understand what the numbers 1 and 2 represent – notice how they hold up 2 fingers to tell their age!

There are numerous ways in which you can "do math" with your Toddler. Each time you note the shape of an object, tell them what time it is, or give the name of a monetary unit, you are establishing a category in the brain in which to store knowledge about math. This information will be retrieved when the time comes. You can count on it!