A previous post by Julia Turchaninova titled When it comes to introducing math, how early is too early?, says that when it comes to math, the earlier the better. She emphasizes that just like ballet or music, introducing a good number sense begins with an early start in training and that young children–between the ages of 0 and 6–experience the period of the most intense and easiest learning time your child will ever have.
In this edition of Math on the Go, we will take you through ways to introduce numbers and patterns to Pre-K children. The goal of these exercises is to learn math in creative ways and to always have fun while doing so! For a child as young as a Pre-K, we have four fun categories to introduce math: Puzzles, Measuring, Sorting, and Counting & Comparing.
1. Puzzles: Making and Matching Shapes
- Draw or print a picture of something and cut out shapes. Make six copies of each cut (total 12) and number them as 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and I, II, III, IIII, IIIII, IIIIII.IIIII, IIIIII, IIIIII). Now your child needs to get the matching pairs to put the pieces back together. To make this more fun, use a 6-sided die to decide which numbers to work from. If your child rolls a 2, she needs to find the cuts with 2, the matching pair II, and put them together. To make this easier, make sure that the matching pair has the same color, to help younger kids. If your child already knows math operations, you can make it more challenging by adding operations into the cuts, like: 1+1, 2-1, 2+3, to add up to 6 in total.
- Draw or print a picture of a tree and some apples. Either cut out circles or paint white spots over the trees to make some gaps that your child must fill with apples.
- Draw or print a picture of a car, and make some cuts on the page by using various simple shapes (see the picture below for inspiration). Ask your child to put the pieces of the picture back together with corresponding parts. Depending on the age of your child, you can start with just one missing shape or several.
2. Measuring: Footprints
Trace the shape of your child’s left foot onto a colored piece of paper. Let him trace the shape of your foot onto another sheet of colored paper, too. This exercise is easy to do with more than one child to compare different sizes. To help your child distinguish which footprint belongs to whom, you can choose different colors of paper, decorate your child’s footprint with stars and your’s with circles, or any other distinguishing marks your child prefers. This is a tool to use to discuss different math concepts and ideas while still being a fun, creative activity:
- Ask your child whose footprint is bigger
- Measure the length of the table using both footprints, first with his footprint and then with your's. If your significant other is present, you can use his or her footprint as well
- Discuss which room is larger: the dining room or bedroom in terms of number of "feet"
3. Sorting: Sorting the House
Collect a variety of household objects, like bottle caps, envelopes, clocks, folded napkins, dice, etc., and invite your child to sort them into different piles by shape:
4. Counting & Comparing: Make a Jellyfish
Draw any animal with your child (the simpler the animal, the better). We suggest an animal like a jellyfish, since there are a variety of shapes involved. Using a piece of colored paper, make it come alive with a variety of details. Discuss with your child how many eyes the animal has, how many mouths, body dots, and legs your animal has. Then, use another sheet of colored paper and some other materials like buttons for dots and eyes, to add more depth to your creature.
Buy some animal crackers and share those with your child. Ask your child to pretend that the palm of his hand (or a plate) is the zoo. Ask him to:
- Put five animals in the zoo. Then say, "Oh dear...one animal escaped!" (Say this when your child has eaten one of the animal crackers.) Ask, "Now how many animals are left in the zoo?"
- "Well, now the zookeeper has put two more animals in the zoo. How many are in your zoo now?"
- Ask your child if he can share the animals in the zoo evenly between two cousins. Then, what if there are three cousins?
- Continue the game, taking away and adding until you are both full.