The foundation for children’s mathematical development is established in the earliest years. Mathematics learning builds on the curiosity and enthusiasm of children and grows naturally from their experiences. Mathematics at this age, if appropriately connected to a child’s world, is more than “getting ready” for school or accelerating them into elementary arithmetic. Appropriate mathematical experiences challenge young children to explore ideas related to patterns, shapes, numbers, and space with increasing sophistication.—(NCTM, 2000, p. 73)
Mathematics is a particular way of thinking and all children everywhere do it quite naturally. From their earliest encounters, children explore the abstractions of mathematics. Parallel to the development of language skills is the development of concepts related to basic areas of mathematics. We can follow the development of mathematical concepts as we look at infants and toddlers. The basic mathematical concepts addressed here are pattern, sequence, seriation, spatial relationships, object permanence, sorting, comparing, classifying, and one-to-one correspondence.
An important mathematical concept that infants develop is pattern. Pattern is the underlying theme of all mathematics and science. It is our ability to discover and recognize patterns that helps us understand how our world works in logical and predictable ways. Experiences with observing and making sense of patterns are what helps young children become logical thinkers who can reason and think critically.
As infants are cared for in predictable ways, they experience the idea of patterns. They easily begin to recognize and anticipate the rhythm or pattern of their care. As they experience this daily routine, infants come to anticipate the sequence of events. Such experiences are important to the development of recognizing the logical patterns that will be discovered later in their mathematical and scientific experiences. As babies approach their first birthday, they anticipate sequences and patterns in games that include patty-cake, peek-a-boo, singing, dancing, touching of the nose and toes, and feeling different textures. These rich experiences help children to develop the ability to predict and anticipate events.
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