Saturday, January 28, 2012

4 Ways to Develop Preschool Math Skills at Home

Learning About Same and Different

Before beginning to work with numbers, preschoolers develop math skills that involve discrimination. Simply put, this means knowing what objects are the same and what objects are different. Children learn to sort, classify, sequence and create patterns long before they begin counting. Using real objects, talk to your child about what is the same and what is different. Objects that a child can hold onto are called, “manipulatives” by teachers.

Working with manipulatives gives children a concrete example of “the same” and “different.” For example, offer a child two square blocks that are the same in size and shape, but a different color. Talk to the child about their likenesses and differences. Another example would be to offer a toddler two oranges and an apple. Talk to the child about which one is out of place, odd or doesn't belong. Explain to the child that this is “different.”


Sorting and Classifying

preschool blocks
Matching, sorting and classifying help children build their logical thinking and math skills. Use clear containers and scrap items from around the house to encourage sorting. This is a wonderful opportunity to recycle materials for games. Used plastic containers and bowls can be washed and reused as storage bins. Small plastic cups, or tin soup cans can also be used as sorting containers. Below is a list of items that can be fun for children to sort or classify by color, size, or shape:
  • Blocks
  • Buttons
  • Cars
  • Shapes cut out of scrap material
  • Crayons
  • Cereal
  • Socks
  • Pencils
  • Coins
  • Silverware
  • Flash Cards or Playing Cards
  • Photocopied Pictures of family members


Patterns and Sequencing

Another important preschool math skill is patterning and sequencing. After children have learned to recognize shapes, they can next learn to put these shapes into predictable patterns, such as a-b-a-b, or a-b-b-a, a-b-b-a. One way to teach preschool shape patterns is with hands-on manipulatives. String a pattern of beads with a child. String the pattern yourself, as an example, then ask the child to duplicate the pattern.

Popcorn, berries, buttons, candies, blocks, pasta, cut-out shapes, and ink stamps all make excellent manipulatives for building preschool shape patterns. These do not all need to be strung on a string. Stamping the pattern on paper, or gluing the objects in a pattern on paper will work. Another idea is to simply lay out the objects in order on a table and ask the child to repeat the pattern with their own objects. This patterning by example will help your child to develop critical preschool math skills.


Learning Directions and Sequencing (Teaching Prepositions)

Spacial directions and locations also help a child develop preschool math skills. Preschoolers need to learn the meaning of directional words, such as up, down, inside, outside, front, back, near, far, over and under. These words are sometimes referred to as prepositions because they describe the location of objects.
A terrific game for developing the awareness of direction or location is the game, “I Spy.” Say you see something and give clues about it’s location using prepositions. For example, "I spy a red object outside the window. This object is under a tree."

Preschool math skills can be encouraged at home by learning shapes, identifying same and different, sorting, patterning and learning spacial directions. Many of these activities can be done with little to no monetary investment. Simply talk to your child, play games with your child, and making math skills an important part of your daily routine.



  • Photo of preschooler with blocks by jessicafm.
  • "Help Your Child Get Ready for Math." Continental Press. 2005. Elizabethtown, PA 17022.


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1 comment:

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