Does Math Talk Pressure my Toddler?
By Teresa Tallman
We are a teacher to our grandchild. Good naturedly we label household items and repeat green when he answers ‘red’ to the color of grass. We count out loud as we portion out treats. It’s common sense to expose our youngest to terms and concepts he is going to need in school and life. After all, we want the best for him.
But who hasn’t felt a cringe when it comes to mentioning science and math terms? Kids these days are plugged in, labeled and pushed and we don’t want to add to that pressure. Sometimes it seems like there isn’t any down time for him to investigate a dishwasher box or wonder about the clouds. When will he have time to paint or make dinosaurs out of clay? Maybe we should take it easy with the science and math.
And let’s face it. Gravity or the statistical mean may not be our strong suit. We might feel a bit awkward mentioning things we’re not confident of ourselves. According to a 2010 survey by Change the Equation nearly one-third of Americans would rather clean their bathrooms than do a math problem.
However, there is increasing emphasis on early science and math education. Even the Department of Homeland Security is involved. According to a 2013 article by DHS, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) programs are an important priority in the United States because they contribute to job creation and innovation for the country. Graduates of these programs play a role in making the United States more competitive in the global economy.
Wow. If that’s not pressure what is? But wait a minute. Although we don’t want our child to be behind in the world theater we also don’t want her to lose her early years to endless drills of cold facts. Simply stated, we also want her to have a childhood with unstructured time to fantasize and play.
The simple answer is we teach our child every moment we are with her. We color with her but don’t expect her to be the next Van Gogh. She helps in the kitchen, but we don’t really think she’s going to be another Julia Child. We read books but don’t anticipate that she is going to be a great writer. We do these things with her because we want her master fundamental skills and to have choices in life. The critical point is that if we don’t expose her to a variety of concepts and ideas we’ve taken away that chance to be whatever she wants.
It’s the same with math, science. We can expose kids to technical terms in a non-threatening way and we need to. Our grandson may not be a chemist or physician when he grows up, but we want to give him the opportunity to be one if he chooses. When you’re talking about colors, toss in the term wavelength. When you blow those bubbles, mention how the size varies. It’s fun.
You’re an expert to a 3-year-old on everything! All is new and it’s not important that he understand the meaning of what you said. It’s important that he hear the term. If we don’t mention the tech jargon along with everything else, we narrow his options. Although a kid should never be pressured to learn something, exposure to the word is fantastic. The nice thing is you don’t need to be a scientist or physicist to talk to him. We just need to say the word, have him hear it and get a comfort with it. And who knows, he might grow up to be the next Einstein or Jonas Salk.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – TERESA TALLMAN
I graduated in 1975 from Iowa State University with a degree in Chemical Engineering. I worked for 35 years for a major manufacturing company. During my career, my view of statistics grew from apprehension to love. It is my sincere wish that people begin viewing statistics in a more favorable light. I believe that begins with educating our youngest. Many parents may not feel comfortable themselves talking about statistics, so I’ve begun the Hear the Word series…Fun with Statistics.
Contact Teresa Tallman firstname.lastname@example.org
Author of Fun with Statistics books for age 3-5 Available on Amazon.com and Paloma Books