You are about to take the first step on a journey of discovery with your child. Although this series of articles is about how children learn maths, they also focus on how young children learn most effectively. Yes, maths is fun when introduced utilising the most potent motivational force in the world… play.
Combine the power of play with the most complete math manipulative ever devised, Cuisenaire Rods, and the results can be startling.
Young children are predominantly kinesthetic and tactile learners. They love to play, explore and test things out for themselves. The most important state for learning is the emotional state. Stress, the enemy of learning, causes an ‘electrical storm’ in the brain ensuring that the higher thinking skills cannot be accessed. The more traditional approach to Maths teaching often causes stress and that is why many adults have unhappy memories of the Math class.
Children need to be positively engaged and absorbed in what they are doing. The most productive learning takes place when we are in the ‘flow state’, oblivious to outside distractions and totally engaged in what we are doing. Give children a box of rods and they will immediately begin to play unaware they are exploring a precise mathematical tool and in the process assimilating a wealth of ‘mathematical facts’. These facts can be consciously and naturally brought to the surface at a later stage.
Cuisenaire Rods are simply the best tool available for introducing and teaching Math to children (and adults) of all ages. Developments within brain-based research confirm the rods as having all of the essential attributes to ensure children learn as effectively as they can. They are particularly effective for all types of learners: visual, auditory and kinesthetic (hands-on).
Cuisenaire rods are simply cuboids of colored wood or plastic. The smallest, white, is a 1 cm cube. The longest, orange, is a 10 cm long cuboid. Just like a piano – once the basics have been mastered the rods hold within themselves infinite mathematical possibilities.
Children of all ages benefit from using the rods. They stimulate insight and understanding from the basic concept of equivalence to Pythagoras’ Theorem. This approach can be followed alongside any scheme of work. They are perfect for introducing math to children at home or school.
Color is recognised as a greater stimulus for memory recall than verbal cues or objects and it is through color names that children will first grasp mathematical concepts.
Imagination is the brain’s most powerful ability. Albert Einstein imagined himself travelling on a sunbeam and the theory of relativity was born.
The rods encourage mental imaging which is vital as it has been estimated that 90% of all information that comes to our brain is visual.
The rods promote manual dexterity. Constant manipulation of the fingers has a positive impact on the mind.
‘The Big Picture’ – Children need the global overview Cuisenaire rods provide naturally.
Before You Start – Points To Remember
- Play is the driving force. Children should always be given plenty of opportunity to play with the rods.
- Color names and commonly used words and phrases can be introduced incidentally while you play with your child.
- Stimulate your child’s imagination by asking him to create something with the rods like ‘Noddy’s house’ or ‘Old MacDonald’s farm’ (directed activities).
- The signs are simply introduced to help explain what your child is doing more succinctly e.g. ‘plus’ instead of ‘end to end’. I suggest you work at your child’s pace always ensuring the most time is spent on play.
- Any new concept should always be introduced as a game or challenge to which there are many possible solutions.
Future articles will explore these points in more detail.
NEXT: Cuisenaire Rods and the School Curriculum.