Following up on the last post…

While Lockhart argues that we should scrap (compulsory) mathematics from schools, I read an interesting book (Doman & Doman 2005 How to teach your baby math, New York: Square One Publishers) last night that argues the opposite, namely that you should start teaching your child mathematics from birth. Yes, birth lah. Failing that before 1y, or failing that before 2y, or…

The approach they describe is very simple, and I’ll outline it here, though if you want the full story you have to read the book.

On the left plot are twelve dots. According to Doman², this is the number twelve. On the right plot is “12”, the numeral we use to represent twelve. As adults, we find it easier to understand the numeral, and this is usually how we teach children numbers. But the authors (child educators) argue that this is too abstract for children, and that we should start showing them numbers and teach arithmetic using numbers, and only then introduce numerals and arithmetic using numerals.

Apparently, a child will learn quite quickly to look at this (left) and know it’s thirty (or however many dots I put down, I’m no good at arithmetic). And according to the authors, you can have your child doing simple algebra before s/he starts school… and enjoying it!

Could this be true?  It seems so implausible, and yet so tantalising… I’m going out to buy some cards and 5050 red stickers today! (Well, tomorrow, I’m at work today.)