The foundational math concepts for young children to develop before school begins that will be most beneficial to them later in school are:
1. Understanding size, shape, and patterns.
2. Ability to count verbally (Up to 10 before Kindergarten)
3. Identifying more and less of a quantity
4. Understanding one-to-one correspondence (being able to count a group of 4 objects)
All of these concepts can be taught through play and the way we speak. In daily conversations, we can use math words, like, "Which one is bigger/smaller?" "What pattern is on your shirt? blue, white, blue white..." "That toy truck is heavier than that lego block."
Here are 3 activities that you can set up for your children. They work for approximate ages of 18 months to 5 years. All the materials used can be found at the Dollar store.
1. Popsicle Patterns
- Popsicle sticks
- Dot Velcro
- A sheet of paper with shapes
I stuck two pieces of velcro on each side of the popsicle stick (2 fuzzy parts on one side and 2 loop parts on the other side). The kids can then stick the sticks together to form shapes. You can talk to them about how many sides and corners (vertices) each shape have and name the shape.
Extension - they can make other shapes and pictures with their sticks and use them for free play. This encourages imagination skills, building skills, as well as extends their understanding that a hexagon can be any shape that has 6 sides, it doesn't have to look like a typical stop sign hexagon.
- Popsicle sticks
- Dot stickers
I placed dot stickers in a pattern on popsicle sticks. Kids then have to follow my pattern by placing a pom pom on top of it. This helps them learn their colors, count, and look for patterns.
Extension (These are concepts in the Alberta program of studies that go beyond grade 3)
1. Encourage them to extend the pattern beyond the popsicle stick. Ask them what color comes next.
2. Create more difficult patterns with more colors. You can also create increasing patterns, for example: blue, red, blue, red, red, blue, red, red, red and ask them if they can show you what comes next.
3. Get them to create their own patterns.
Rocks, beads, dry beans, etc
Give them bowls of each item separated by shape, size, or color, then allow them to create any kind of pattern they want. You can also draw lines on a piece of paper and get your child to place objects on the line in a pattern. Then discuss the pattern.
1. Triangle by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen - This is a shape puzzle where triangle plays a trick on square. This book promotes awareness of shapes in a fun way.
2. Counting on Frank by Rod Clement - A boy and his dog make math fun.
3. Pattern Fish by Trudy Harris - A book filled with beautiful patterns.
4. Billions of Bricks by Kurt Cyrus - This is a great book for kids who love construction. This book teaches kids to count and skip count in a fun way, plus shows how math works in real life.
Here are some more websites with great ideas:
1. Teach Young Children Math (Conversations)
2. Help your Child Develop Early Math Skills
3. Math Talk