How to Build a Strong Mathematical Foundation for your Child

“We all know that Math is one of the least favorite subjects of our kids. However, when they have the right foundation and you have introduced the math basics at an early stage of their lives. they will surely learn to love it especially when they start schooling.”



It is a surprise when Ms Peggy Zee, an Early Education Mathematics Specialist with 32 years of experience, reveals that she had failed Maths “practically all my life”.

The educator later concluded that she had simply not been taught in a way that helped her to comprehend the subject. Thankfully, those early years of mathematical fumbles have not stopped Ms Zee from pursuing her understanding of the field.

These days, apart from training preschool teachers in Early Mathematics, Ms Zee runs a “homeschool” programme from her home, provides consultancy to early childhood centres (including ECDA for Sparks), and training to teachers and parents via private engagements. She wants to help preschool children “have a better chance of enjoying maths and excelling in the subject in their formal education years”.

In that vein, she shares with us the following tips on how we can help our children build a firm foundation in mathematics.

Ground Abstract Ideas in Real-life Experiences

The challenge of mathematics is two-fold. First, it lies in understanding and translating abstract concepts into concrete experiences. Second, it is the ability to apply these concepts to get tangible solutions in the real world.

Ms Zee believes that parents can engage children in mathematical thinking and reasoning without formalised teaching or worksheets. How? “By providing preschoolers with substantial amounts of foundational free play where they experience patterns and shapes and count objects,” she says.
Given enough materials, opportunities, and time to experience such informal experiences with numbers, preschoolers will develop their own understanding of the relationship between number and quantity, she adds.

Numbers and Quantity

To a preschooler encountering them for the first time, numbers are merely abstract symbols. How can you help your child understand how numbers represent the quantity of something? First, don’t rush to show them the numerals. Count objects with them before showing them the numerical symbol representing that number of objects.

Other activities that you can try with your child:

• Make number cards from cardboard and display them with dominoes. Encourage your child to use two dominoes to combine spots to make the total amount. For instance, your child can combine the domino piece with two dots and the domino piece with five dots to make a total of seven.

• Write out numbers in chalk on the floor or wall, call out a number, and have your child erase that number using a water gun.

Basic Operations

Symbols like “+” (plus), “-” (minus) and “=” (equal) are abstract concepts that need to be tied to concrete experiences.

Before a preschooler can comprehend and compute addition or subtraction equations, she first needs to understand “more than”, “less than” and “equals”.

Help your child visualise these concepts through the following activities:

• Give yourself and your child some small pieces of paper. Ask your child to compare who has more pieces of paper or determine whether both of you …


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