What Skills Should Children Learn?

Published by MrHonner on

I know very little about early childhood education, but have recently started to think more about it.  I greatly enjoy interacting intellectually with my nieces and nephews and find it fascinating to explore ideas like fractalsinfinity, and ordering with them.  But I don’t really know anything about the theory of how children learn, what they should learn, or when they should learn, mathematically, or otherwise.

To begin exploring the idea, I thought about possible fundamental questions and eventually settled on this:  What are some important content-independent skills that children need to learn?

I posted the question on Google+, and Don Pata, MrBombastic, Jim Wilder, and Christopher Danielson all offered some great ideas.  Here’s the list we compiled through discussion, in no particular order.

Problem-Solving Perseverance — the ability to sustain focus and work through a problem to the end

Intellectual Discipline — the willingness to focus and invest energy on learning and development

Number Sense — an intuitive understanding of quantity:  magnitudes, relationships, and scales

Reflection — the ability to objectively self-assess, refine, and adapt

Communication — the ability to express information and emotion in a variety of ways, and appropriately interpret and process the expressions of others

Courage —  the willingness to fail

Curiosity — the habit of inquisitiveness and the ability to ask good questions

A good list to start with!  Thanks for all the help, and if there are other suggestions, please feel free to leave them in the comments.

You can see the original thread on Google+ here.

Categories: Teaching


Kathy Person · August 13, 2012 at 10:53 am

A sense of fun and magic! Use magic tricks using math and then figure out how they work. Add in a purple feather boa and magic wand.

    MrHonner · August 15, 2012 at 6:09 pm

    Instilling a sense of wonder is undoubtedly good thing, and perhaps fits under “Curiosity”.

    I imagine this is best done my modeling such behavior? Are there specific skills a child can learn in order to develop a sense of wonder?

Tao Wang · August 16, 2012 at 10:35 am

I was in a presentation yesterday on grading and assessment where this was one of the questions posed and discussed.

    MrHonner · August 16, 2012 at 3:48 pm

    Did the question pertain specifically to young children, or was it about learning at all stages?

    What were some of the ideas that came out of your discussion?

      Tao Wang · August 17, 2012 at 2:11 pm

      It was about learning at all stages. The discussion centered on the relationship between the importance of a particular skill to lifelong learning and the difficulty in assessing that skill.

      We made a plot: http://mathlaoshi.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/skills-and-assessment.jpg

        MrHonner · August 17, 2012 at 5:22 pm

        That’s a terrific chart: so much to argue about!

        Nice to see a lot of overlap with what we came up with here.

Ravi · August 24, 2012 at 2:29 pm

I think they should learn about paradoxes too – real, apparent and fallacious ones.

Paradoxes have the power to intrigue and drive.

Trying to fix the fallacious 2=2=5 type ones are great to make people think.

The apparent paradox of relativist time dilation has made me start to study the maths of special relativity (I love the simplicity of the Lorentz factor).

So getting children to love and explore apparent paradoxes can be helpful.

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