Theories in early childhood development & math

Written by jeremy cato
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Theories in early childhood development & math
Young children can acquire basic math skills at a very early age. (Child image by Serenitie from

A child begins learning from the very first day of life: figuring out how to eat, how to recognise faces, how to get his parents' attention. There are many theories developing about how children learn in the very early stages of life. These theories, which are collectively referred to as early childhood development, relate to many topics, including mathematics.

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Number Recognition

This theory focuses on the understanding of how children learn numbers and the meaning of numbers. It deals with more than just methods of teaching children what numbers are, but teaching them how numbers relate to each other, including the idea of large and small quantities. This area studies how children are able to understand numbers, at what age they begin understanding numbers and how to better educate children at an earlier age. Parents should begin teaching their child to identify numbers around the house and in other environments by the time the child is 1 year old.

Basic Math

This theory studies how children acquire the simplest skills in addition and subtraction. Children with different cognitive abilities understand addition and subtraction in different ways and at different rates of comprehension. This area seeks to understand why that is and develop more fine-tuned methods of instructing young children to add two small numbers together and subtract one number from another. Many theorists believe children should begin learning basic math using tactile examples first, such as adding two jelly beans to three jelly beans to get five.

Technology and Math

This is a more recent theory on early childhood development and math that centres around the subject of technology's role in helping children learn math. It examines how video, audio, tactile electronic and online resources help or hinder children's understanding of basic math concepts. The goal of thought in this theory is to weed out ineffective technology and increase the use of the most effective technologies. Many theorists consider devices that use a combination of auditory, visual and tactile features more effective than ones that focus on only one sense.

Psychology and Teaching Methodologies

This theory focuses on the psychological aspects of early childhood development of math skills and how knowledge of these psychological elements can be used to develop better teaching methods for young children. Thought in this theory is concentrated on understanding how the development of math skills affects a child's mental, emotional and psychological development. It is used to create teaching methods that empower children as they learn math, leading to better mental health as the child ages. Theorists generally believe that encouragement and patience are the best tools to use when teaching math to young children.

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