You probably don’t remember the day you realized what the number “6” looked like. At some point, you simply went from not knowing what it looked like to knowing, right? Whether you learned it through preschool worksheets or from Count von Count on Sesame Street, something must have aided you in recognizing numbers. As parents, it can be easy to overlook the importance of teaching our children early math skills, even ones as simple as recognizing the number “6.” After all, isn’t that what school is for?
Integrating these early skills into everyday life both before and during a child’s formal education is crucial to giving them the skills they need for math success. Here at our private school in Atlanta, our teachers have seen the difference this kind of intentionality makes in a child’s education. Children who begin to grasp even the most basic number-oriented skills at an early age often experience greater mathematical confidence throughout their schooling than those who do not.
The preschool teachers here at Academy of Scholars have found that teaching kids early math skills can be fun. The possibilities are nearly endless. Here are ten creative ways that you can help your child develop early number skills:
1. Count with Everyday Objects
Everyday life provides ample opportunity for counting. Children can count the remaining Cheerios in their cereal bowl, the number of building blocks in a pile, or line up their stuffed animals and count them one by one. As kids improve their counting skills, try incorporating simple addition and subtraction:
- “If you have five pennies and I give you one more, how many do you have now?”
- “If your tower has six blocks and you add three more, how many blocks will your tower have?”
- “If there are ten Cheerios in your bowl and you eat two, how many are left?”
Children can learn to comprehend the concepts of mathematical functions long before their first math class. Helping them think through simple equations in their everyday life will give them a crucial advantage in the classroom.
2. Tell a Story
Once your child can work with concrete, hands-on equations like those listed above, you can begin to introduce abstract equations. Stories are a great way to sneak in some learning. A mathematical story might go something like this:
“Once, there was a pirate named Pete who loved parrots. In fact, he had seven pet parrots. Every day, Pete and his parrots would sail the seas, hunting for treasure. One day, one of Pete’s parrots, Polly, decided to go off on an adventure of her own. Pete was sad to see one of his beloved birds go but knew it was time for Polly to set sail on her own adventure. So, Polly said goodbye to her pirate friend and set off into the sunset. If there were seven parrots before Polly left, how many parrots remained?”
3. Make it Sensory
Give your child opportunities to play with numbers in a way that appeals to their senses. Drawing numbers in sand, rice, or finger paint or forming them with playdough or clay are fun ways for children to solidify their number recognition.
4. Make it Musical
The internet is an excellent source for finding number songs and chants that children can memorize easily. Look for songs that help children master the basics, like counting from one to ten, or more advanced songs that help children learn to count two by two, three by three, and so on.
5. Go on a Math Scavenger Hunt or Discovery Walk
Kids love a good scavenger hunt. Pick a number and search the house, grocery store, or even road signs on a car ride to see how many of that number your child can spot. An outdoor hunt in the backyard or at the park is also an excellent way for children to engage their brains with the natural world while learning about numbers. When kids interact with nature, their brains often retain information more easily. On your walk, choose one thing to count. For example, you might see how many different colored flowers you can find or how many leaves you can crunch.
6. Read Counting Books
Books provide visual opportunities for children to develop their number recognition and sequencing skills. Many board books focus on simple counting and can be introduced to children even before they learn to walk and talk.
7. Use Sidewalk Chalk
Sidewalk chalk has been and probably always will be a favorite childhood pastime. You can integrate math by helping your child trace numbers or drawing a game of hopscotch and encouraging them to shout out each number as they land on it.
8. Let Them Help in the Kitchen
You may not realize it, but baking and cooking can provide excellent opportunities for children to work on their counting skills. Help them measure out three cups of flour and two teaspoons of vanilla extract, or put ten minutes on a timer.
9. Play Number Games
In addition to these creative activities, you can play many games with your children to encourage their mathematical thinking. Here are some of our favorites:
- Bean bag toss: label a few buckets with numbers and give your child a target number each time they throw the bean bag.
- Number bingo: Create your own version of bingo using numbers!
- Number puzzles: From foam to board puzzles, these are a great way to engage your child’s brain as they learn their numbers.
- Card games: Games like “Go Fish” or “Crazy Eights” are a fun way for kids to recognize numbers.
Sometimes, children learn best when they don’t realize they’re learning. Teaching them essential math skills outside of the classroom is crucial to their learning experience, and employing creative tricks like these above will help your child become a mini-mathematician in no time.