A study showing that early math skills are one of the best predictors of later success in both math and literacy has become a cornerstone of the growing movement among early childhood educators to boost math instruction in preschool through 3rd grade.

Why is early math is so important?

According to professor Gary Duncan, children who do well in math early on tend to do very well in school. Kids who do well in math in high school end up doing well in the labor market. After all, basic math is a life skill, you need it for tasks of daily living such as grocery shopping, managing budgets and estimating costs. 

The challenge is that many first graders do not understand basic computation and by third grade moving on to multiplication and division is difficult for students because they do not have strategies for problem solving, so many children just guess. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal also addressed how the English language interferes with conceptual math understanding.

Drilling with tools like flash cards is ineffective if children do not have a conceptual understanding of math. Memorizing facts and procedures is not enough, children need to understand why the answer is correct.

Why do we teach composition?

Number composition may be the single most important concept for understanding multiplication and division. Once children begin to see that numbers fit into other numbers evenly then they begin to understand number relationships.

Wanna have some fun? You can begin to teach number composition for addition and subtraction with magnets and marker boards like Ms. Latimer does. VIDEO

Why is automaticity important?

A key feature of mastering math facts is achieving automaticity in order to improve math fluency and computation abilities. We want children to know 6 x 8 = 48 without needing to calculate it. We also want children to know what other numbers fit into 6 x 8 = 48 to support their later understanding of factors, a critical element of algebra.

How can parents and teachers help?

1. Before teaching children symbols like 3,4,5, teach them quantity with blocks or coins. Children need to be able to see what quantities look like.

2. Use language that tells children what numbers make up bigger numbers.

We like the language “how many of what kind.”

27 is 2 tens and 7 ones

213 is 2 hundreds 1 ten and 3 ones

3. Teach regrouping with blocks. The children in Play Math like Unifix blocks best.add

4. Play with numbers around your home is every day life.  When you open a carton of 12 eggs, as an example, ask your child how many 3’s fit into the carton. Carton of eggs. one dozen Let the children take the eggs out and fill the carton up with “groups” of eggs like a group of 3. How many groups of 3 fit into a carton that has 12 holes? Ask your children how many five’s fit in the carton and do they fit evenly?

Understanding math composition is a game changer for children and we can begin teaching composition to schoolagers through play.