As we go about our morning routine each weekday to get ready for school and work, I’m reminded that my children are being exposed to math concepts simply by sticking to their routine. Their morning activities allow them to experience sequencing and order first-hand. The same can be said for much of their day – there’s the morning routine, their school day schedules, our after-school routine, and the evening and bed-time routine. Each was implemented without much thought to how math played a role; our routines came about from a need to plan our days and be on-time. Yet, math is definitely present even in such an everyday occurrence.
Let’s break down my children’s morning routine to see just how they experience sequence and order. My oldest knows that she needs to use the restroom, wash up, and brush her teeth (in that order) before she can get dressed. She also recently added personal hygiene products to her routine, so, as an example, now she knows she must first put on deodorant before pulling on her shirt. Though they are simple tasks we take for granted, the truth is that she didn’t always have that knowledge. As a toddler, we taught her that there was an order and sequence that should be followed in the morning.
Similarly, my two-year-old son is now following in his big sister’s steps and learning all about sequence and order with his own morning routine. After a couple of times of trying to put on his pants over his pajama pants, he now knows that first he has to take his pajamas off before he can get dressed for the day. He also knows that socks come first before the shoes and will proudly announce as much, telling me, “Silly mommy! First we have to put on our socks!”
Sequence and order in everyday life routines provides stability for our children, but it also helps them think about other moments when sequencing might be important. When my daughter was learning how to add two-digit numbers together, I used the example of the sequence of our routines to help her remember that it’s important to add the ones column before the tens column. I could have simply stressed that it’s a rule in math, but by showing her a real-life, relatable example in her life, it helped her see the importance of sequencing for herself.
As she moves into more complex mathematical operations or maybe even computer programming, she’ll have a basis for understanding the order of operations and the importance of proper sequencing. My young son will get there someday, too, but for now I’m happy that he doesn’t wear pajamas under his school clothes.
How have everyday routines helped your children with their math learning?