Building Math Minds from Early Childhood

By Susan Donaghy, Head of School

Nurturing mathematical thinkers and not calculators was the topic of workshops recently attended by teachers and parents at Greenwich Country Day School. We are grateful to GCDS for opening these workshops to the teachers at PIFS.

At an early age, children can lose confidence in their aptitude for “doing math.” Too often, children come to believe that they are not good at math and this affects their choices for classes, majors and ultimately life careers. Guest speaker Christina Tondevold, nationally recognized educator and founder of Mathematically Minded, shared strategies and resources designed to foster a love of math. By directly modeling thought processes, children can develop accuracy, efficiency and flexibility in manipulating and conceptualizing numbers. This is a shift from traditional educational methods of memorizing math facts and learning operations in isolation. Seeing relationships between numbers and functions provides this important foundation for mathematical thinking.

Making math “lovable” is a journey that needs to start in early childhood. As parents and educators, we can actively nurture number sense beyond rote recitation by modeling attaching “counting words” to the objects being counted. This is the first step in developing a sense of cardinality, which is the ability to appreciate the number of elements in a mathematical set. We can provide guided opportunities to count and manipulate items into various configurations through play, helping children to visualize number in different ways.

At home, Christina sees an opportunity for parents to reinforce that math is important and relevant. She advocates making space for math activities as we do for literacy. Playing cards and board games with dice is a great way for the entire family to make math fun. At PIFS, some of our favorites are Go Fish, dominoes and Connect Four. Here are some simple fun and easy ways Christina suggested to integrate math fun.

Christina Tondevold provides professional development and resources to teachers and parents. She can be found through her website at

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