“As in other areas of language development, it appears children infer the meanings of [multi-digit] numbers using whatever experiences they can access.”
This is one of several conclusions a group of researchers at Michigan State University and Indiana University drew from their study of through year olds (pdf). (Read the Washington Post’s report on the research here.) In particular, these researchers were studying the place value knowledge of young children, trying to understand whether they learn multi-digit numbers logically through direct study or culturally through everyday experience.
Examples of Tabitha’s recent experiences with multi-digit numbers.
Their study made clear that children absorb a lot of information about multi-digit numbers through their everyday experiences.
These researchers provide compelling evidence that young children (as young as years old) connect number words (fifty-seven) to numerals (57). Children can use their ideas about these numbers to identify and to compare numbers.
Talking Math with Your Kids is a project based on this premise. Children don’t need iPad apps to teach about numbers, they need conversations about the numbers in their worlds.
If we are aware of the importance of these experiences, parents can provide more opportunities for children to think about these numbers. Some examples from this blog include Days to Christmas, The Biggest Number, Uncle Wiggily, and Counting by Fives.