Should we teach math early at age, five or six years old?

Or should we teach it later, maybe after 10 years of age?

Or wait until 18 years of age to be teaching math to kids ?

The answer might be obvious to you, but I’d like to share a few stories to help you decide what is best for your family.

I didn’t think about this much this topic until our youngest, Hunter, was starting first grade. Harvey and Laurie Bluedorn, authors of *Teaching the Trivium*, stayed with us for a couple days. Laurie questioned me on why Hunter was doing math at age 6. My immediate response was, “He’s good at math. It’s his favorite subject.”

My discussion with Laurie encouraged me to think about when my I should teach math. Should I be teaching math in the early ages or should I be teaching math at an older age? Where does math play a part in my kids’ education?

With the math & science society we live in, you would * assume* math should be taught every year your kids are in school. However, I would like to suggest a different approach for homeschoolers.

Let’s start by looking at how math has been taught to those who make a difference in society.

**Teaching Math to Kids in History**

For centuries, sons of nobility and gentry did not study math. Mathematical teaching was unknown at that time. Children could not divide 2021 by 43, or I should say the ordinary boy, because most boys were the ones going to school.

Eton College, where the princes go to school, is the posh-est school in England. Until this century, there was no such thing as a teacher of arithmetic in schools like Eton. Math was not compulsory until 1851. The poor boy sometimes studied it, but the rich boy did not need it. (Did you catch that?)

Also in Germany, math was only available in commercial classes like trades and skill classes.

**What does that tell you?**

Mathematics wasn’t taught at an early age, it wasn’t even compulsory until the 1800s.

Before you bow up & leave, I’m not saying, “Don’t teach math.” I’m suggesting we think about what’s the best use of our time during the different stages of education. Waiting to teach math a little bit later might help your kids be more ready. Teach math when they begin thinking abstractly, around 10 or 12 years old.

If you wait to teach math, it frees up hours during your homeschool day for more important activities when your child is developing language skills. You can spend more time on vocabulary and language during the Grammar stage.

Research says the best time for a child to learn a foreign language is when they are young. That’s when their brain is developing in language skills. So, I suggest spend the younger years in language skills.

Yet, most homeschoolers want to section off an hour a day to teach math.

But can you really wait to start teaching homeschool math?

Next week, I’ll share a few case studies in when to start teaching math to kids.

**Question: ****When do you think is the best time to start teaching mat to kids? You can leave a comment by clicking here.**

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## 8 Comments

I completely disagree. If you only think of mathematics as computation, then you are completely missing out on a beautiful system. Math is not just computation…it’s nature, art and language, too! My two adore it, and we have been playing with math since they were old enough to play. The key here is to play…not demand math skills. Who cares what happened in the past? Right now, our society depends on mathematics and computer language/science. If my two find math to be fun and entertaining, I’m teaching math.

I completely agree with you about math being more than computation, Anne. My son loves math and “did” math throughout his younger years. Math is all around us, so we normally use it all day long. Even though Hunter did not “do” math, he could often answer math type questions before his older sisters. But, he did not “study” math in an academic sense. I think those younger years are better spent in developing language.

As far as history and what they did in the past…I think it’s important to learn from history. Kids can today memorize and tell you all sorts of information, but can not “think” or “communicate” well. I believe some of that lies in a poor foundation or language skills.

I’ll be sharing 2 case studies this week. I’d be interested in what you think about them.

Love this post and can’t wait to read more. We unschool for the most part so everything we do is very practical and revolves around things my kids are interested in. We don’t use a set curriculum. For math we have fun with it and do things like read books, cook, play games, count allowance, learn budgeting, measure nature stuff etc. I think practical math or math that fits into their interest is way more important than learning to reguritate facts at a young age that they will most likely just forget later (umm just like I did). My goal is for them to love learning and to find what makes them happy and follow their dreams.

Kathy,

Thanks so much. I learned the hard way … with my own kids. It’s just as important for our kids to have a great attitude towards learning, as it is to actually learn. If they have a good attitude, they will figure out a way to learn.

How funny! I just read something the other day, that was actually talking about introducing “math” to children under 2 1/2 – but using pictures instead of numbers. And the reason being that math uses the left side of the brain, and until 3 the right side of the brain is dominant. But starting early the right side of the brain is used for perceiving the quantity so you are using both sides of the brain for math eventually! This link is much more informative than I am. http://www.brillbaby.com/teaching-baby/math/why-teach-math-early.php

I view education more holistically. As in, teaching math, and language and arts at the same time. Rather than the first five years being language, then math, then … whatever else. They are building blocks that we can begin laying down from the start. Math with a toddler isn’t addition and subtraction, it’s doing puzzles, sorting blocks into shapes and sizes and colours. It’s counting the birds on the lawn, or the steps up to the front door. My daughter also LOVES to read, and at 2 1/2 is quite loquacious. People often ask me if she is 4 because of her eloquence.

Looking at history is important and valuable, and seeing it clearly is vital. Siting that nobility did not need math, therefore we can forgo it with our children until they are older does not make logical sense. It was still taught to those who needed it. And today we all need it. =) Also, I wouldn’t look to England as a primary source for my education ideas considering world wide (in 2012) they rank 20th in science, 23 in reading, and 26th in math. Many asian countries rank very high on the PISA, and looking at how they teach math may be valuable for us as we decide how to teach our own children in the home. =) This might be an interesting read. =) http://www.math.admu.edu.ph/tsg22/Zhang.html

It’s also important to remember each child is different. I grew up learning 3 languages at the same time and could easily switch from one to the other depending on who was around. My brother on the other hand, had a really hard time with that and it confused him a lot. We were in the same environment and with the same people but we learn different ways.

Interesting thoughts though! =) Maybe you could sight some of your sources for the stuff you mentioned about history. That would be an interesting read I’m sure! =)

Thanks for your comments, Lana. I appreciate them & will read those articles shortly.

I’m in the middle of a post that sums up what I’ve been saying, which is . . . to focus on language during those young learning years. This is not to the exclusion of math in every day life (holistic learning)

Have you read my 2nd post in this series?

Teaching Math to Kids {Case Studies}

It gives 2 case studies that show we “did” math all the time, just not in a workbook or textbook. Like you said, we need math on an every day basis. I agree!

However, I did not focus on the academics of math during those young years. It didn’t seem to hurt my kids. Read these stories & you’ll see how my son won the math award in high school (as a sophomore) and my daughter made A’s in Business Calculus (& she doesn’t like math).

Stories about Teaching Math to Kids

Interesting… so I think what you are saying is that we should delay using our “traditional” western school way of teaching math rather than actually delaying teaching math. Am I right? =)

I don’t know how familiar you are with the abacus, but it is quite fascinating to see how they are used. Using an abacus is great, because it also uses the right side of the brain to be doing math – it’s using the visual. After it’s learned – a lot of people can just see the abacus in their head and perform the math problems real fast without having the actual tool. Here are a few links you might find interesting: http://www.abacusmaster.com

http://www.ucmas.ca/our-programs/how-does-it-work/mental-math/