As the parent of a preschool age child it is natural to be concerned about your child’s transition into kindergarten. Even though your child may be attending a preschool, you’re probably still thinking about what can be done at home to facilitate your child having a good start toward elementary academic success.
Regarding in-home instruction, language and literacy skills are suggested as a starting point because of their importance. Maybe you’re already teaching your child the alphabet, how to talk properly and to read. What tends to get lost in the conversation is how you can enhance your child’s math learning capabilities through interactions with your child while at home. The following are some conceptual ideas to consider.
- Whether in preschool or at home, the goal is to teach children that math is not just on paper or on a whiteboard, but part of their everyday lives.
- Recognize that math has several aspects including numbers, geometry (patterns & shapes), measurements, spatial relations and math language.
- Rather than teaching math as an isolated subject, blend math into the other academic areas. You can easily blend math concepts into other academic disciplines such as language, art, music and science projects.
- Last, assess your child’s current knowledge and scaffold your instruction. Don’t try to take them far beyond what they know, but build on their current knowledge.
For a suggested starting point, here are some suggestions for at home math instruction. First, there is the formal development of mastering different number skills. For example, your child needs to master the skill of counting aloud from 1 to 10. When this has been mastered, then you can progress further in bite size chunks. Remember to scaffold the teaching. For example, don’t teach your child how to count from 1 to 10, then jump to counting from 1 to 1,000.
Second, when learning to count children should realize that each number symbol or word represents a specific quantity. This can easily be done through your child’s everyday life. For example, you can ask your child to give you 3 apples (any type of object will do) from a basket. Have your child count the apples out loud as they give them to you. If they do it properly be sure to congratulate them. If your child struggles simply count out loud with them until they master it. Your child needs to know that they can determine how many objects are in a set by counting.
Third, when your child has mastered the counting of apples, the next step is to teach them the concepts of subtraction and addition. For example, have your child put one of the apples back in the basket. Your child will probably not be able to do the math in their head and recognize that 3-1=2. However, have them count the remaining apples. At this stage, you want your child to simply recognize which numbers are larger or smaller than others. Through this example, your child is able to see that a set of 3 apples is larger than a set of 2 apples.
Depending upon your child’s progress, you may want to have them add 2 apples from the basket to the set of 2 existing apples. As they add the apples have them count out loud. Then have them count out loud all the apples in the wet which would be 4. Once again, your child is learning how numbers relate to one another and how math applies to everyday life.
The following are some additional suggested activities you can do at home to help your child learn basic math:
- Count food items at snack time.
- Using a calendar, count the number of days until a special event i.e., Christmas, birthday, etc.
- Using small objects teach addition and subtraction.
- Ask your child to name shapes i.e., square, triangle, etc.
- Have your child arrange blocks into different patterns and have them name the resulting shape.
- During arts and crafts have your child cut out specific patterns to be used in math activities.
- Weigh and measure various items on a scale, helping them understand that some items are heavier than others.
- Fill a measuring cup at various levels showing your child greater and lesser quantities.
- Play a guessing game such as, “I’m thinking of a number greater than 2 but less than 5.”
- Ask your child questions which will teach him or her terms like more/fewer, bigger/smaller, etc.
- When involved in various activities, emphasize numbers and shapes.
- Play games where your child is asked to jump forward or backward.
- Point to things and speaking out loud that they are either far away or near.
- Use songs or movement activities that reinforce concepts such as in & out, up & down and before & after.