Program develops math skills in young children
Math to Build On workshops scheduled in Central Louisiana parishes
The Orchard Foundation has a program that has the goal of preparing kids for kindergarten by helping young children understand math concepts long before they enter a classroom.
Math to Build On is a math literacy program intended to complement the Foundation’s reading literacy program called Read to Soar. Both consist of a series of hands-on workshops for children ages 5 and under and their parents or guardians. Workshops are offered free of charge to residents living in The Rapides Foundation’s nine-parish service area.
The Orchard Foundation, the education arm of The Rapides Foundation, coordinates Math to Build On to help prepare young children for school success by raising awareness of how to add math skills into the home. Through the workshops, children develop and strengthen math skills through reading and activities, and families learn how to continue and reinforce the learning at home.
When they complete the program, children get a certificate of participation and a Math to Build On bag. Families receive five books each session they attend. If a family attends all 8 sessions, they will have 40 new books to adorn their home library, while the parents come away with tips and resources that help them teach their young ones.
The Orchard Foundation developed Math to Build On following the success of Read to Soar. Since Read to Soar was launched in 2018, close to 700 children from throughout Central Louisiana have attended workshops. In all, 14,089 books have been distributed to more than 500 families that participated in the sessions.
Math to Build On is part of the School Readiness component of The Rapides Foundation’s Education Initiative. The School Readiness component seeks to ensure more children are ready to enter kindergarten.
“Studies show children who attend some type of early childhood program before kindergarten are more likely to complete high school and go through their entire school careers without repeating a grade,” said Marjorie Taylor, Executive Director of The Orchard Foundation.
Each of the eight Math to Build On sessions focus on a different topic area and are designed to be fun, giving parents and caregivers a chance to bond with their kids in a learning environment. Sessions include music, dancing, crafts and refreshments.
Sessions follow early childhood education best practices and are specifically tailored for Central Louisiana. Each session focuses on early-level math skills, such as identifying shapes and patterns, counting, recognizing numbers, understanding spatial relationships and learning comparisons.
One of the strengths of the program is that parents and guardians come away with tips and resources that help them teach their young ones long after the sessions are over. Parents who completed the Read to Soar program reported they had confidence to share and read books with their children at home, resulting in an increase in the development of home reading routines.
“We want the parent to be able to bring the education into the home, and we want them to have the skills to continue this throughout the child’s life, even as the child advances in school,” said Rebekah Simpson, Program Manager for Early Childhood for The Orchard Foundation.
Another strength of the program is that it accepts infants and babies. A baby may not be able to speak, but he or she can absorb the concepts presented in Read to Soar and Math to Build On.
“A lot of parents don’t realize what a baby can do. Whether reading or math, hearing those words and conversations the first year of their life is huge. If you have a baby and you are calling shapes by their name, the baby is slowly building that knowledge,” Simpson said.
A Math to Build On pilot began in Fall 2020. The Orchard Foundation plans offers up to 30 Math to Build On and Read to Soar workshops at various locations and times throughout Central Louisiana during the year. Spaces are limited to 15 families per session, so residents are urged to register early. Links to the Math to Build On and Read to Soar web pages are included in the "More Links" section below.