Ever seen children playing with cars and grouping them according to different colors? Or how about seeing them aligning their stuffed animals from the smallest to the biggest. And making a building with Lego bricks, sequencing it in red, blue, red, blue?
Those are all math concepts seamlessly being included in play. Helping your kids build numeracy skills should be a very natural process.
There are so many learning opportunities from the materials that we already have in the environment. Often times, there is not even a need for tedious preparations. It just takes an attentive eye to find learning opportunities for your child.
How to help my toddler build math concepts?
Every parent would want their child to be successful. So it makes sense that we as parents would want to start early too.
However, let’s not lose sight of the fact that our children are in fact children. It is worrying when you see people scrambling to set their child up for academic success at the expense of more important stuff in their childhood such as play and character building.
Helping young children build on these skills should be stress-free for both you and your child. It should be fun, natural and relevant, and I am going to show you how below insya’Allah.
Skills and concepts
Helping kids build numeracy skills is more than just teaching them to count. Below are the concepts that we should help our children build on.
- being able to notice 2 things that have the same thing in common
- can be the exact same thing (e.g. 2 identical red cars)
- can be matched based on one aspect, such as quantity, shape, size, texture, and function (e.g. fork and spoon, 4 cats and 4 apples)
- involves knowing which objects are the same, and which are different and categorizing them (sorting vehicles according to car, van, and motorcycle)
- more difficult than matching
- looking at 2 objects and finding it’s similarities and differences
- comparing a group of objects and putting them in order based on certain attributes (e.g. smallest to biggest)
- ordering is also present in the sequencing of events in stories
- ordering with patterns has an element of repetition
- Example of the different types of patterns:
- AB (e.g. setting the table: fork, spoon, fork, spoon)
- ABC (e.g. making actions: clap, stomp, jump, clap, stomp, jump)
- AAB (e.g. ordering blocks based on colour: red, red, blue, red, red, blue)
- growing patterns such as AB ABB ABBB
- help children to identify patterns before getting them to create patterns (e.g. patterned fabrics, stripes on zebra)
- reciting the numbers in sequence (e.g. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5…)
- being able to do this does not mean they know the concept of numbers having quantities
- being able to accurately point one object at a time when reciting the numbers in sequence
- also known as one-to-one correspondence
- understands that the last number recited represents the quantity of the objects counted
Conservation of quantity
- understanding that quantity of objects remain the same no matter how you place it
- understanding that a number can be made up of smaller parts
(e.g. 5 can be made up of 4 and 1 or 3 and 2)
- foundation for understanding operations (e.g. addition, fractions, division)
- the ability to instantly recognize the number of objects without counting
- being able to do this shows a strong number sense
- knowing the specific names (e.g. rectangle, square, triangle)
- recognizing it’s unique properties (e.g. triangle has 2 sides)
- making new figures by putting the different shapes together
Simple spatial concepts
- knowing the relationship of objects and it’s locations
- using positional words (e.g. top, bottom, front, back)
- using directional words (e.g. up, down, left, right)
- these concepts can be developed in play (e.g. playing blocks or movement games)
Children are natural learners. They are eager to learn when provided with the right environment- one which is engaging and exploratory, with some guidance from an adult or another skill partner like an older sibling.
Organizing the environment involves selecting materials which are safe and open-ended. That which allows children to explore and manipulate with the materials provided. Place these materials somewhere that is easily accessible from them to explore on their own.
Below are some of the materials that you should have:
- Lose parts as counters (e.g. pebbles, sticks, buttons, bottle caps)
- unifix cubes
- strings and beads
- lego bricks
- counting boards
- number lines
- five and ten frames
This is a step by step approach to building numeracy skills and it can be summed up as follows:
Concrete: Using real and concrete objects to count (e.g. counting 5 buttons)
Pictorial: Representing the objects in pictures (e.g. drawing 5 circles to represent the 5 buttons)
Abstract: Using the numeral symbol to represent the objects counted (e.g.Writing the number 5)
Providing guidance with questions
No doubt, there is a lot that children can achieve on their own. However, there is a theory by Vygotsky, a famous psychologist, that is called “zone-of-proximal development” also known as ZPD in short. It refers to the difference a learner can do without any help, and what they can achieve with guidance from a more skilled partner.
Providing appropriate assistance will help to boost their understanding and achievement. We can do this by asking questions instead of giving them answers. This will help them to extend their understanding of a particular concept or help them solve problems.
Extending their understanding:
What other objects in this room has the shape of a circle just like this cookie?
Who has more cookies?
How many cookies should I give you so that we can have a fair share?
Games are a fun and engaging way of practicing math concepts. It just takes some creativity on your part or perhaps, research. Below are some examples:
Stories and rhymes
There are many stories and rhymes which can help to explain numeracy concepts in an enjoyable manner. Here is a huge list categorized according to the different math concepts.
Building on your child’s numeracy skills is not hard. Math is everywhere, making it so relevant and thus easy to learn. It just takes an attentive eye to find learning opportunities for them.
Enjoy the learning journey!
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