What we are using

03 August 2008

Can you teach math to a child that hasn't developed the concept of conservation?

LB is 3 in every way imaginable, except that she has astounding communication skills, a wonderful imagination, and a terrific sense of humor - even without the Lake Wobegon effect.  I have been trying to establish math as a daily routine in our house and this has unfortunately started to include her.  We had been merrily doing pages from Singapore Earlybird math and RS A until one day, I noticed that she actually lacks the idea of conservation of numbers.

Take four blocks and lay them in front of a child close together.  Then take four more of the same size blocks and lay them out, but spaced further apart.  Ask the child which has more?  The child that hasn't developed conservation of numbers, will say that the longer one has more.  I tried it with different objects and with different terminology.  She simply hasn't developed conservation yet.  Cognitive science has come a long way since Piaget, but he got conservation right.  

I had grand plans of teaching my child mathematical thinking at an early age before I ran into conservation.  I think we will just work on counting and recognizing numbers for a few months then try again after she is four (or after 5).   Maybe this will help prevent a math revolt like CC had?


Anonymous said...

Hmmm, interesting. I did this with R and he, too, said the spread out group had more (even after I asked him to count both groups). So...I guess he hasn't developed that either (he's almost 5 btw!). But, he understands quantity and order (he ordered the numbered books in our series correctly on his own), so I've been working on those concepts with him. But are you're saying it's best to wait until they do have conservation?

Karen said...

See, I don't know. I am doing numerical order and number recogition. I know they can learn the names and order of numbers and probably memorize math "facts", but I don't know that they really comprehend addition and subtraction and other ideas until they develop conservation.