Can Babies Really Learn Math?

When Gareth was 3 months old, I started him on Doman’s Math Program. He has gone through cards from 0-100, and learned addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Although Doman advises against “testing” children because it can put them off learning, you can indirectly test your baby by giving him problems to solve in a fun way.

In his Math program, Doman introduces the problem solving segment fairly early. I, on the other hand, didn’t give him any problems to solve until about three days ago. On day one, I asked him to give me the answer to three random equations (stuff like 23+13, 48-22, etc.). After each question, I would show him two consecutive dot cards and ask him to point to the correct answer. He got them all right. On day two, I gave him three more Math problems. He got them all right, again. On day three, I gave him yet another three more Math problems and he answered them all correctly.

That’s nine Math problems – all answered correctly. The probability of it being a fluke is very low – it’s 1 in 512 chances, or 0.2%. Can babies really learn Math? Yes, they can. I know I’ve been writing about early childhood education and Doman teaching programs for a while but I have to confess that part of me had doubts about whether I could teach Gareth to recognise the dot cards.  I am a little relieved to see that my efforts have not been in vain.

I have no video evidence nor do I intend to make any because I feel the presence of a camera adds pressure for Gareth to perform.  I made the mistake of applying that pressure on Gavin and only succeeded in putting him off a lot of things so now I’m careful not to make the same mistakes with Gareth.  You will just have to take my word for it that he can do Math.  The only reason I am recording this is so that other parents who wondered as I did whether Doman’s Math program is worth while or just a big waste of time, might be inspired to keep going with it.

There is a parent on youtube who did record her child’s progress, which you can see below.


The ability to perceive quantities is said to be present up until about 3 years of age.  The Doman staff I purchased the Math Kit from recommend the Math program only for children age 3 years and below.  Despite that, I tried doing the program with Gavin anyway since he was already 3 years old by the time I got my hands on the kit.  Sadly, Gavin is still unable to perceive quantities and must physically count things.

I do think there is some individual variation, so even if your child has already turned 3, you may still want to give the program a go because I have read about one mother who successfully taught her child to recognise quantities from age 3 onwards.  Unfortunately, it didn’t work with Gavin.  So it looks like we’re going to have to figure out another Math program that will work for him.  There are currently two programs we’re looking at – SEE’s method (thanks to FZ for sharing it with me) and the Japanese Abacus Anzan method.  I’ll be writing more about both methods soon so stay tuned.

Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of (a website on parenting, education, child development) and (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

5 thoughts on “Can Babies Really Learn Math?

  1. Hi,

    I was referred to your blog by a mutual friend, See Ming.

    I find your blog to be very enlightening especially in the right brain education matters.

    I am currently looking at a appropriate right brain training school for my beautiful daughter. Here are my thoughts :

    Shichida : The waiting list is so long. With the current queue, the probability of getting a placement will be sometimes in April 2011.
    I also find this to be a bit commercialized and tensed.

    TweedleWink : Taken to understand that the environment is more relaxed and calm. However, my friends seem to have trouble finding a teacher with a good command of the English language.

    Heguru : Have not heard of this till I came across your blog. Seems interesting and this is very close to my place which will reduce the stress of traveling too far for the class.

    Based on your experience and research, would like to seek your personal opinion on which school and teacher you would recommend.

    On a different note, my paed is strictly against the above as she mentioned that the child’s brain is very primitive and these kind of activities will do them more harm than good. 😦

    I am also looking at purchasing the Glenn Doman reading kit and I believe you have obtained this previously. Would you recommend this product. It seem to be a very expensive investment though.

    Hoping to hear from you soon.


  2. I have no experience with Shichida, so I cannot comment. I never bothered with them because:

    1. Waitlist too long.
    2. Location inconvenient.
    3. Bad reviews about their teachers from other parents.
    4. Compulsory parent seminar (which I’m sure would be good to attend) but difficult for me to go because of my two kids.

    As for TW and Heguru, I think which one you choose depends on your child’s personality. My older son attends Heguru and my younger son attends TW. Why? Because my older son preferred Heguru. As for my younger son – he is so mobile that it is difficult to keep him to stay still for an hour – which is required in Heguru. If I made him stay still, he would get angry and that defeats the purpose of right brain education which talks about ensuring that your child is happy and stress-free.

    As for English pronunciation, I found that the teacher in Heguru has poor pronunciation and the one in TW is excellent. So I think it really depends on which teacher you get. You do not get to choose as it really depends on which class you get (also depending on which days you are free to attend). On the flip side, I have also seen teachers with good English pronunciation in Heguru and poor English pronunciation in TW. At the end of the day, I guess it all depends on luck of the draw.

    The reason I keep Gavin on in Heguru despite the poor English pronunciation is because he has a good rapport with her and he likes her. My son is slow to warm up to people and sometimes takes an unexplained dislike to some people so I try not to change his environment too much if he is happy in it. I simply whisper the correct pronunciation in his ear when I hear it.

    The other thing to realise about right brain education is that the goal is to exercise the brain rather than try to get it to remember things. In the Shichida books I read, it was mentioned that quantity of flashcards was more important than quality because the idea is to develop the image brain.

    As for your paed’s opinion, I am inclined to disagree. Shichida has been in operating in Japan for over 20 years, producing excellent results. If such activities were doing harm to a child’s brain, it would have been seen by now. Secondly, I don’t think Shichida would have won the awards he has for the progress he has made in early child development.

    Then again, I have also learned to take the advice of the professionals here with a pinch of salt. For example, I was advised not to breastfeed during my second pregnancy because it was believed it would increase the risk of miscarriage or early labour. All the literature I researched said otherwise. I still hear incorrect information about breastfeeding being passed around supposedly from “professional” sources.

    That said, we’re talking about your child and ultimately, you must be the one to decide what you believe to be the best for her.

    Glenn Doman Reading Kit… I bought it because the Doman book I read said babies needed the words to be large enough for them to read. I was too lazy to make my own, so I bought the kit. However, I found that my older son (3yo at the time) could read words from a menu in a restaurant. That made me wonder if the letters really needed to be that big.

    The Glenn Doman reading program began first in brain damaged children who already had “damaged” areas in their brains. It is possible that they needed the font to be larger because of the damage.

    If I were to go back and spend the money over again, I would buy the BrillKids Little Reader because:

    1. It comes with pictures which teaches a baby what a “ball” is, or an “air conditioner” is, etc.
    2. It is versatile – you can play it with pictures or without.
    3. It is multi-sensorial because they have video clips as well as flashcards.
    4. The new package comes with hard copy flashcards so you get the best of both worlds.
    5. You can add on to the program once you’ve completed the set syllabus (I’ve finished the Doman program for my baby and there are still so many more words that I need to teach him if I want him to be able to read books).

    If you have the time and you don’t want to spend the money, you can make your own flashcards from powerpoint. You can print them out and make flashcards or you can use them on the computer – it’s up to you. I have most of them uploaded here:

    By the time you get through the first lot, I’ll have the rest up.


  3. hey shen!

    where can i get the glen doman math kit? i am actually doing the dot cards with tristan over the computer(not very consistently :P) am wondering whether the math kit is worth the investment. how much by the way?


    1. There are pros and cons for having the dot cards. I find it easier to use the computer because:

      1. No fumbling with cards (they are cumbersome when you want to flash quickly)
      2. Easier to arrange
      3. Now that Gareth is mobile and crawling a lot and snatching things, it is easier to use the computer so I can hold him and use one finger to change the cards. He would snatch my cards all the time previously.

      The reason why I still like the dot cards:
      1. Face to face with your child – which is important
      2. Easier to do the problem solving questions. E.g. 9+5=? (then you show two cards at the same time and ask them to point to the correct answer – you can’t do this with a computer). That said, I would avoid over testing because they get bored, they don’t like it and it puts them off learning. A little testing is okay but it is easy to get carried away because it is so exciting to see how much they have learned.

      The dot cards cost me about Rm1k (can’t remember the exact price) – which is a little steep but worth it if you can’t be bothered to make your own. You can buy them directly from Glenn Doman baby – who are the local distributors for the product here. – they will deliver to your door so you don’t have to pick it up from them. I have also seen the Math kit at “Blue Dot Baby” in Bangsar Village 1.

      Alternatively, you can buy your own blank flash cards and sticker dots and make your own dot cards. I was too lazy to do that :-p


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