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Helping Your Pre-Schooler With Math-Avoid Learned Mistakes
Now that you’re actively working with your preschooler’s math and language skills, you’ll find that some learning is easy and almost immediate, while others are difficult and require repetition. Sometimes a LOT of repetitions! One important thing you need to understand, however, is that “unlearning” a mistake is very difficult and should be avoided at all costs.
Please understand that I am not saying that your child should not make mistakes. In reality, errors are a necessary part of learning. What I am referring to is avoiding LEARNED mistakes. It is important that an error does not happen again without correction so many times that it becomes learned.
Researchers have known for decades that the brain easily picks up survival skills, like touching a hot stove just once. The only purpose of the brain is survival, and learning non-survival skills is hard on the brain. In the second article in this series: “7 things you should always do”, point 7 discusses the importance of using “brain-friendly” techniques with your child, and it lists many different examples of these techniques. . One of these techniques is frequent examination–often called practice or repetition.
Researchers agree that repetition is necessary for many types of learning, but recommendations amount grade repetition has changed considerably over the years. When I started teaching in 1972, educators believed that a skill could be learned with just 4-7 repetitions. More recent brain researchers have adjusted the figure much higher. It is now believed that 20 to 50 repetitions are required for learning to occur.
Luckily, preschoolers LOVE repetition. They like to read the same books, play the same games, and sing the same songs over and over; and each repetition brings skills, vocabulary, and facts closer to learning. However, a practiced error can become a learned error and a learned error is very difficult to eliminate. It may take HUNDREDS of To correct repetitions to “unlearn” a learned mistake. Yes, it says HUNDREDS of To correct rehearsals! If you’ve ever tried to “fix” a bad habit, you know how true that is.
So what does this mean for you? This means that you should always watch what your preschooler is doing and lovingly correct mistakes as they happen, because they will happen. never criticize your child for a mistake. Direct them gently to discover the correct answer and reward it. It also means that you NEVER make your child work on worksheets, workbooks, smartphone apps or computer programs without your very close supervision. All of these tools make practicing mistakes far too easy. Ideally, you never use ANY of these things with a preschooler, but that’s a topic for another day.
Your child’s learning should be directed by you. You can prevent learned errors from occurring. Yes, you are SO important!
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