Why Foundational Math is Crucial in Achieving Math Mastery

Despite foundational math being normally introduced and mastered early in school, some children struggle in learning the basic calculations of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. This ultimately hinders their progress in math later on, as seen in a study by the National Institutes of Health that observed this phenomenon:

Researchers observed that the child participants in the seventh grade, who didn’t have a solid grasp of basic math skills taught in first grade, scored significantly lower than other children when tested on math skills essential in adulthood.

With a strong understanding of foundational math early on, a child can learn other math concepts with ease, lessening the risk of math anxiety while improving their prospects in adulthood. Here are just a few reasons why foundational math is beneficial to a child’s success in math and in life:

1) Helps them develop automaticity in problem solving

Automaticity is the ability to calculate and solve math problems in an accurate and efficient way. Learning and practicing foundational math gives children the opportunity to strengthen their problem solving skills, enhancing their ability to approach problems in an analytical and logical manner. According to the National Research Council:

“The more automatically a procedure can be executed, the less mental effort is required. Since each person has a limited amount of mental effort that he or she can expend at any one time, more complex tasks can be done well only when some of the subtasks are automatic.”

With automaticity achieved, children are able to progress further into their learning of math, helping them reach math mastery earlier on.

2) Strengthens their critical thinking

Foundational math helps to hone in on critical thinking skills, as children are heavily encouraged to write down their thought process and lay out a clear understanding of the situation/problem at hand. The importance of having critical thinking skills are emphasized when stepping outside of a classroom/school setting, as one has to rely more on their critical thinking skills for real-life situations. Critical thinking skills thus establish a quick yet rational approach to solving problems, making logical decisions, etc.

3) Brings them to apply math and relate it to everyday life

Foundational math helps children develop a familiarity with addition, subtraction, multiplication and division – concepts that are used every single day. We can find them through estimating and approximating measurements, whether through cooking, planning one’s day or travelling to a new destination. Learning about things like distance, quantity and weight in math can always be related to actions and events in everyday life! The more children can understand and apply math to everyday situations, the smoother their transition will be into adulthood and independence.

4) Boosts their success in attaining desired jobs, especially in STEM

In mastering the basics through foundational math, children are able to become more proficient in math, helping them gain the skills constantly sought after by hiring managers.

Developing such skills like problem solving and critical thinking is essential in the job market, as economist Greg J. Duncan of the University of California Irvine’s School of Education stresses the importance of understanding numbers and its processes, stating that it “is a fundamental skill for success in almost any occupation you might choose”. He believes that it “leads to the analytic, higher-level thinking that’s increasingly important.”

As strong math skills are required for a majority of highest paying jobs (many involving STEM-related fields), being knowledgeable in foundational math at an early age unlocks more fruitful job opportunities and career success in the future.

To provide children with a head start towards math mastery, foundational math must be implemented and learned early on. At Math Project, our Foundational Program accelerates our students’ math proficiency through bridging any math learning gaps – all while bolstering their understanding of math basics. Learn more about our programs by clicking here or calling us at 1-844-628-4243!

Focusing on the Fundamentals of Math: A Teacher’s Guide – edu.gov.on.ca
Reading, Writing, and Math: The Foundation of Basic Skills – mathgenie.com
Top 4 Basic Math Skills Students Should Learn – teach-nology.com
First grade math skills set foundation for later math ability – nih.gov
How to boost math skills in the early grades – hechingerreport.org

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