6 Common Myths about Early Math Learning

6 Common Myths about Early Math Learning Cover Image

Ready to bust some myths on early math? Read on to find out some cool and interesting facts about this subject which will change how you and especially your kids look at it!

The “Fear of Math” is not something that kids are born with…in fact, for many it is a fear that has been conditioned over time. But, does this trepidation have to be for a lifetime? Definitely not! As parents & educators, it is our job to understand the root cause of this “Math phobia” much of which is fueled by myths and misnomers. In this article, I have tried to put up facts, fallacies and myths that may play a part in conditioning a negative impact in children and what you should know better to get over them.

Let’s know 6 common myths of Early Math

Myth 1

Early Math is just counting. Most people pay focus on counting at an early age, and feel that in order to teach counting to children, a variety of hands-on activities need to be applied.

Counting is important at an early age but that’s not the only thing. In fact, repeating pattern and spatial skills predict preschoolers’ concurrent and future math achievements.

Myth 2

Children need to master skills and knowledge before they can solve problems. Children need to learn mathematical operations like addition, subtraction, etc.

It is not true that children cannot solve problems without mathematical knowledge. They can put their intuitive idea to solve their problems. For example, if a preschooler is given four toys and then again two toys and asked to add and say how many toys they have, they will be able to put together and tell you that without referring to a particular mathematical operation.

Myth 3

Young children must sit down and learn math and sometimes you just have to do worksheets. Memories are built basis workbooks and worksheets that contain a good number of sums for practice which therefore enables children to retain their knowledge of Mathematics.

Effective retention is not dependent upon the extensive practice on worksheets. Early age children learn to think math by engaging in math talk activities – by debating, which toy is bigger, who is taller – whether you or your mother, preparing a direction-based map for the play room, counting the steps from the room to the drawing room, etc. Building a foundation involves playing games and math talk.

Myth 4

Time spent on math takes away from play. If play is considered as free play, then there is less time for such activities.

High quality math education is achieved through a playful approach. Children can be engaged in spontaneous mathematics through math talks during their free play time and parents and teachers can help build their mind on experiences through meaningful play. Preventing children from meaningful play, intentional experiences and structured math talks may deprive them from the joy and fun of mathematics.

Myth 5

Time spent on Math is time taken away from literacy and social-emotional experiences.

Math activities and engagement involves moving, building towers and free playing. Research studies report that early age mathematical involvement promotes a child’s language, literacy and social-emotional development, similar to what literacy programs do. In reality, math talks, sharing through play and working with objects builds literacy, social-emotional bonding and visual literacy. It also contributes to better writing, vocabulary and IQ scores in later years.

Myth 6

Math is only for Mathematicians and others don’t need it and don’t use it. Mathematics is used for careers like actuarial, CA, research scientist, etc.

Math is used by everyone in every instance of their life. Whether you are a cook, or a singer or a musician or a dancer, or a sports person, a coder or an entrepreneur – it is a part of everyday life. While we sometimes don’t use extensive math in our day to day lives, we are bound to use some of it in instances that involves problem solving & decision. Let me give you an example, aren’t you using math when you are putting salt in your food to balance the taste? Aren’t you using math when you are eating – how much to eat, should it be a small loaf or big loaf that can fit easily in the mouth. This is all mathematical intuition which we use unknowingly every time.

Well, to say the least these fallacies have a big role to play in how children perceive math from an early age. In fact, it can also limit the thoughts of trainers, school teachers & parents. So, as those imparting knowledge, it is our duty to be careful and use the right strategies in early Mathematics education.

About the Guest author

Gunjan Agarwal is a published author of the book Early Maths Matter. Being an Assistant Professor and a mother herself, she is on a mission to help parents and elementary educators build a strong foundation for children at the grass root level. She calls herself an “Early Mind Curator” and encourages everyone to take a journey along the same path. Her book debunks the myth that you need to do math only if you want to be a Mathematician. She believes Math has a very important role in building a child’s mind for the 21st century.


  1. Rittle-Johnson, B., Zippert, E. L., & Boice, K. L. (2018). The roles of patterning and spatial skills in early mathematics development. Early Childhood Research Quarterly. doi:10.1016/j.ecresq.2018.03.006
  2. Sarama,J., Clements,D.H. (2018) Myths of Early Maths. Education sciences.

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