Math needs a publicist. It’s the rutabaga of education: You know it’s good for you, but you sorta dread encounters with it. Math may have a bad reputation in some quarters — as boring, counterintuitive, and repetitive — but here’s the thing: Math isn’t just memorizing multiplication tables and geometric equations. It’s an inescapable and integral part of our lives, starting in early childhood.
It’s measuring, sorting, building, counting, noticing patterns, and figuring out when a pattern is broken and how to fix it (a.k.a. problem-solving). In other words, it’s present in every single thing we do, be it adding enough flour to a cake mix, seeing how many Lego bricks it takes to finish that house, or determining how long it takes to get from your home to a birthday party by car or bike.
The more you expose your young kids to math — and do so without trashing math as being a necessary evil — the more your offspring will learn how to use it in real life without feeling that sense of dread. Real-world experience with math gives kids a feeling a mastery that they just can’t get from rote learning. That pays dividends down the line: If your kindergarten-age child both grasps math and knows how to apply it, he or she will be have success academically later on in life, says the National Association for the Education of Young Children.
A funky wood toy scale that makes math and counting fun.
Now, far be it from us to tell you that one toy, or any toy for that matter, will suddenly make math-leery kids go insane for the subject and start doing multiplication tables for fun. But if you start ’em young, that just might happen naturally. Take this funky-weird scale. It’s a one-eyed monster with scales on either side. When kids put the different weights on his scales, the scales go up and down. The set includes nine larger weights and 11 smaller soft weights, and it’s an offbeat and unthreatening way to teach your kids the basics of addition and subtraction. Not to mention the basics of physics: What goes up must come down. Plus, toddlers work on their fine motor skills as they gently, gently place the weights on the scales and see what happens. That’s called cause-and-effect.
The beauty of this toy is that kids learn without knowing they’re learning. They’re just putting stuff on the monster’s hands and seeing what happens. But then you, the parent, casually mention: “Hey, when you put the green eyeball on his hand, did it go up or down?” And when your kid becomes the next great tech innovator, you can send the check our way.
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