Math gives children a way to talk about objects and ideas, which develops vocabulary and general knowledge about the world. This is important as children learn to read. The more words and ideas they understand, the better children can comprehend what they read. You can find opportunities every day to involve children in math activities. You do not have to be an expert to do this. Just give your children the chance to ask questions, look for answers, and talk about the experience. Talk
Fun with Math Data Analysis • Today we compared our heights to other family members and members of the animal kingdom. Some things to try at home: • Choose a mystery number and give two numbers, one lower and one higher. Have your child guess and tell him whether the number is higher or lower than his guess. Continue until he gets the mystery number. Then let him choose a mystery number. • Introduce the concepts of greater than and less than. Glue two craft sticks together in a “V” shape to make a hungry mouth. Set out two groups of objects, and have your child orient the mouth so that it’s facing towards the larger group. The Erikson Institute’s Early Math Collaborative defines 9 foundational math concepts for young children. See http://earlymath.erikson.edu for more. Data Analysis is gathering and organizing information to allow comparison and generalization.
Singing slows language down and allows children to hear and play with the smaller sounds in words. Understanding that words can be broken into smaller pieces and then put back together helps children sound out words when they are ready to learn to read. Listening to the patterns found in music can also help children identify other types of patterns, which may explain the “Mozart effect” – listening to music improves performance on certain math tasks requiring spatial-temporal reasoning. Sing
Fun with Math Measurement & Patterns • Today we used rice to measure and to make a simple musical instrument. Some more things to try: • Let your kids help measure while cooking or baking. • Use real measuring cups and spoons in water or sand. • Keep a simple calendar so your kids can see the repetition of numbers, days, and months. • Make bracelets or necklaces for each other using beads or pasta arranged in repeating patterns. Measurement is using numbers to describe an attribute. Patterns refers to recognizing like items which repeat in sequence.
To become good readers, children need to have general knowledge about many things. Learning about math concepts helps develop this kind of knowledge. This makes it easier for children to understand books and stories when they learn to read. We often think of reading and math skills as being separate, but there is actually a lot of overlap. For example, recognizing patterns, classifying, sequencing, and solving problems are important skills for early math, but they’re also important early literacy skills. Read
Fun with Math Counting & Sets • Today we talked about how to read with your child in a way that encourages math skills. Some other things to try: • Play games which encourage counting, such as Candy Land, Chutes & Ladders, and hopscotch, and games which encourage matching, such as Go Fish, Spot It!, Bingo, and Old Maid. • Count, count, count! Crackers, stairs, children at the park, dogs you see on your walk, library books going back into the bag… • Do the housework and learn about sets at the same time when your child helps you sort laundry, match socks, or set the table! Counting is reciting the names of numbers in order and applying them to objects. Sets refers to defining which things go together.
Allow plenty of opportunities for your child to describe the world with drawings and simple writing. Describing what they see is a good way to expand vocabulary. Learning about shapes and spatial relationships is an important precursor to both geometry and letter recognition. After all, letters are just combinations of shapes! Provide your child with lots of opportunities to identify, talk about, trace, draw, and manipulate shapes. Write
Fun with Math Shapes & Spatial Relationships • Today we made our own puzzles to explore shapes and spatial relationships. Some things to try at home: • Build with puzzles, tangrams, blocks, or train tracks. • Cut cookies or Play-Doh into geometric shapes. • Make a shape collage. • Build 2- and 3-dimensional structures using toothpicks and marshmallows, blueberries, or grapes. • Make shapes on a peg board using rubber bands. • Play Blokus, Memory, or Connect 4. Shapes refers to recognizing and naming 2- and 3-dimensional shapes. Spatial Relationships refers to understanding direction, orientation, and relative position of objects.
Children love to count, measure, sort, and compare. Use their natural interest in math to help them learn new words and concepts. Opportunities for talking about numbers and number operations occur all the time. If everyone gets two crackers for snack, how many crackers do we need to put out? If bedtime starts in 30 minutes and it takes 10 minutes to get ready, how long do we have to play? The next time your child asks a question that requires math, you might say, “I’m not sure—let’s figure it out.” In this way, you are helping your child problem solve and discover something for him or herself. Play
Fun with Math Number Sense & Operations • Today we played with real and virtual bugs and buttons. Some things to try at home: • Play with Legos to see how small parts fit together to form a whole. • Write the numbers in the bottoms of paper bowls. Use tongs to place the matching number of pompoms into each bowl. • Put 10 beads on a pipe cleaner or string. Practice sorting them into different groups. How many different ways are there to make 10? • Take binder rings and on each one put a number card with the matching number of beads to make number rings. Number Sense is associating the names of numbers with the quantities they represent. Number Operations is seeing what happens when we join or separate sets.