Helping Your Preschooler With Math: Avoid Learned Mistakes

Now that you’re actively working on your preschooler’s language and math skills, you’re discovering that some learning is easy and almost immediate, while other learning is difficult and needs repetition. Sometimes A LOT of repetition! However, one important thing to understand 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 mean is avoiding LEARNED mistakes. It is important that a mistake is not repeated no correction so many times that it becomes learned.

Researchers have known for decades that the brain easily learns survival skills, such as touching a hot stove just once. The brain’s sole purpose 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”, article #7 discusses the importance of using “brain friendly” techniques with your child and lists many different examples of such techniques. One of those techniques is frequent review–often called practice Prayed repetition.

Researchers agree that repetition is necessary for many types of learning to occur, but the recommendation Amount repetition has changed considerably over the years. When I started teaching in 1972, educators believed that a skill could be learned with only 4 to 7 repetitions. Newer brain researchers have set the figure much higher. It is now believed that 20 to 50 repetitions are needed for learning to occur.

Fortunately, preschoolers LOVE repetition. They love to read the same books, play the same games, and sing the same songs over and over again; and each repetition brings the skills, vocabulary and facts to be learned closer. However, a practiced error can become a learned error, and a learned error is very difficult to eliminate. You can take HUNDREDS of Right repetitions to “unlearn” a learned mistake. yes that says HUNDREDS of Right repetitions! If you’ve ever tried to “fix” a bad habit, you know how true this is.

So what does this mean for you? It means you should always monitor what your preschooler is doing and lovingly correct mistakes as they happen, because they WILL happen AGAIN. never criticize his son by mistake. Gently direct them to figure out the correct answer and reward them. It also means NEVER have your child work on worksheets, workbooks, smartphone apps, or computer programs without her close supervision. All of these tools make practicing mistakes too easy. Ideally, 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 mistakes from happening. Yes, you are SO important!

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