In a typical preschool, lots of attention is paid to language development, with story time and pretend play and so on. But many preschools are falling short in teaching math to kids, often because the teachers themselves don’t have a firm mastery of the subject.
And before you get images of boring worksheets and drills in your head, what that means is just simple counting and grouping of numbers. Some schools teach addition and subtraction in simple and concrete ways as well.
The problem is especially difficult for low-income children, who often already start school at a disadvantage. Teaching them math before they can get the misconception that they are bad at it is really important to their future academic achievement, according to this report.
Here’s where I have to put in my plug for Montessori. My older kid, who apparently inherited her father’s math abilities and not mine, really liked the math activities at her Montessori preschool. I went to Montessori schools as well through sixth grade, and let me tell you, that’s the only reason I understand anything about math to this day (well, that and Mr. Scalzi in tenth grade geometry). The Montessori method breaks things down in very concrete ways, showing in a visual and tactile manner how number relate to each other. Traditional math class made me cry —Montessori made me feel like I understood the concept, at least.
Of course, parents can do a lot at home, although I think many of us shy away from it for the same reasons teachers do. But even things like simple counting songs, asking them to count items around the house, or doing simple addition and subtraction (“you have four apple pieces —now you ate one, how many are left?”) can help get kids ready for kindergarten.