Teaching Math to a Toddler

Having started the Doman Math program for Gavin late, I am often unsure of how much he is really absorbing.  Although he doesn’t oppose me when I use the Red Dot Cards with him, I still wonder if I need to supplement our sessions with other teaching materials.  I’ve tried various methods on him with varying success.

The Dream Box Math Program

Our initial trial of this program was a dismal failure because Gavin only had eyes for Thomas at that time.  If it wasn’t Thomas, he wasn’t interested.

Since he started expanding his interests beyond Thomas (thanks to his pre-school exposure in Kinderland), I’ve been taking the opportunity to expose him to new things – new books, new activities, and new games.  Although he is still closed to certain things, I tried the Dream Box Math Program on him again with greater success this time.  Being older as well, I found he enjoyed the game a lot more this time.  Like most other activities, he wanted me beside him when he played – which had it’s pluses and minuses because it meant I could see what he was doing and observe what he knew (although the program has a parent dashboard which updates you on what your child has achieved to date so you don’t necessarily have to be beside him), but it also meant he often asked me for answers instead of working them out himself.

Although the game was captivating enough to hold his attention for a good hour, I still think it would have had more staying power on Gavin if it had featured Thomas characters in it.  I guess some things will never change…

If yo’ure keen to try the Dream Box Program with your child, check out our competition to win a free subscription for one month.

Math Activity Books

The Thomas and Friends Math activity books have been one of the most successful so far.  We haven’t been consistent but from time to time, I’ll pull out the books and get him to do a few of the activities of his choice.

Other books we use are the Kumon activity books – number games (which include colour  by number and join the dots) and numbers (which teaches recognition of numerals and learning how to write them).  We do activities from these books at least once a week.

Right Brain Math

Both TweedleWink and Heguru cover the topic of Math which I think helps to reinforce the Doman Math program we do at home.  I supplement these activities at home by using the red dot cards.  I get him to guess quantities by showing him two cards and asking him to pick out quantity “x”.  We also do which is more than or less than.

Math Charts

Recently, I’ve discovered something that has worked wonders with Gavin.  I downloaded some Thomas and Friends Math Charts from a Shichida Parents resource site and asked hubby to print them out in colour for Gavin.  Here is an example of one of the charts:

I stick the charts up around the room and let Gavin peruse them at his own leisure.  I have to say I was completely bowled over by how well he took to the charts.  The novelty may be wearing out slightly but when I first stuck up the charts, he would sit in front of them and read them out aloud to himself.  He enjoyed the first few charts so much that he kept asking Daddy to “buy” him more charts (he thought Daddy bought them for him because hubby would come home with a new chart every so often).  We even use the chart as a reward for good behaviour!  If he behaves himself, we’ll give him a new chart.

I guess at the end of the day, if you want to teach a child something, the programs that capture a child’s primary interests will still work best.

Exactly how much he gets out of these programs, I don’t know because I haven’t really tested him.  Daddy has discovered that Gavin is able to count in his head and I know for a fact that he can do the Math activity books on his own without my guidance as I have seen his work when I review the books.  He can write numbers which are recognisable, he can count, he can add and subtract simple equations, and he can recognise numerals up to at least 60.

Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of Figur8.net (a website on parenting, education, child development) and RightBrainChild.com (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

3 thoughts on “Teaching Math to a Toddler

  1. Shichida Method: besides red dots cards, there are variety dots and organized dots cards. You can make your own Thomas variety dot cards. Instead of red dots, just use a train with good contrasting colour to white.

    – Abacus play: my boy loves this in Shichida class and we use our Ikea wooden abacus to practise rapid counting daily.

    – Addition +1 to +10 songs: singing equations is an easy way to remember things. We do anytime appropriate, e.g. counting bread crumbs during tea break.

    – Bought “Match It Mathematics” puzzle from Toy R’ Us. Match picture equations to the numbers.

    Math was my favourite subject, so I hope to make learning it as fun as possible for my boy. 🙂


  2. Great ideas. Yes, I should dust off the old abacus that Gavin has on his cube toy. He used to like playing with it. They also do the abacus in Heguru.

    I used to use trucks for Gavin when I first taught him to count. Perhaps it is time to dust off those old powerpoint slides…

    We also have a “match it mathematics” equivalent puzzle that my parents bought for Gavin. It is now too basic for him. When I first taught him addition and subtraction, I would use his trains as “counters”.

    Yup, I loved Math, too. For me it was like working out a puzzle and I loved doing puzzles. I do hope Gavin and Gareth will enjoy it, too.


  3. These are some great ideas to teach your baby math. Yes, I agree that I don’t think power point slides will help anymore. Puzzles are extremely effective in teaching them. I love the idea of using trains as adding and subtracting to teach them. There was some really great points here on how to teach them, and just like the experts are saying teach them at a very young age. Starting at 1 month old to 6 years old is the most ideal ages.


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