Children with a well-developed number sense can succeed in early math (and beyond), while children who don't are at much greater risk of falling increasingly further behind. (Case, Griffin, and Siegler, 1994). Now is the critical time to build those skills. However, we want you to walk away from this module with an understanding of what is DEVELOPMENTALLY appropriate for a four-year-old.
I just mentioned how important "number sense" is to your child's future success in math. Number sense means that children understand the concept of numbers, that numbers represent quantities, numbers have names, and numbers have relationships to other numbers.
“Preschool children’s knowledge of mathematics predicts their later school success into elementary and even high school (Clements & Sarama, 2011, p. 968)."
This module includes skills and activities your child needs to be "ready for kindergarten, and how you can support your child's mathematical development at home.
By the end of this module, learners will be able to:
Understand what is meant by the term “number sense.”
Understand the importance of a well-developed number sense in their child’s later success in school.
Identify strategies for developing their child's understanding of “one-to-one correspondence”.
Identify strategies to support their child’s mathematical growth.
Does your child understand that objects each represent “one thing” and can count 5 objects?
Can your child count out loud to 10 and can write numbers to 10?
Does your child understand “more”, ”less”, “adding to” and ”taking away”?
Does your child know at least 3 shapes and colors and can sort objects accordingly?
Can your child explain and know how to continue a pattern?
Understands that objects each represent “one thing” and can count 5 objects
Understanding that one object represents "one thing" and counting each object is called one-to-one correspondence. One-to-one correspondence is a big deal. It is what our whole number system hangs on.
Your child needs to know that a set of items is made of individual objects; and they should be able to touch and count objects one at a time. They need to understand that when they count objects, each number corresponds to a quantity or a number of things.
Does your child recognize that a set of items is made of individual objects?
Can your child count at least 5 objects one at a time?
Activities for Math and Learning that Objects Each Represent "One Thing" and Can Count Five Objects
Below are the activities you can do with your child to support their understanding that objects each represent "one thing" and can count five objects.
This activity is called Muffin Tin Counting. You will need a muffin tin or an egg carton and some small counting objects like small erasers. You will write numbers in each well. (HINT: Use sticky dots, and you will be able to use the tin over and over.) Have your child count the small objects and put the correct number of objects in each well. This activity should be done together. Model the activity first, then have the child repeat it until your child can do this independently. Be cautious with small objects or erasers with small children – they can be choking hazards. Never leave your child unattended with small objects.
Small objects for counting, such as dry peas or beans
Sticky dots (optional)
This activity is Cookie Jar Counting. Children use Play-Doh® to make "cookies" to match the number for each cookie jar. If you use Play-Doh, we recommend placing pages in a sheet protector so that you can use sheets over and over. You can also use Cookie Crisp® cereal or mini cookies instead. This might make the activity fun and tasty!
Cookie jar handouts
Play-Doh™ to make “cookies”
Cookie Crisp cereal or mini cookies (optional)
Flashcards are simple, portable, efficient, and versatile; yet often underused. These number flashcards can be used for identification activities. For example, you can put them up around the house. You can call out a number and have your child find it.
You can make two sets and create a memory game. You will start with the cards face down and have your child find pairs. Be sure to talk about the number when they find the pair.
You can use flashcards to identify the number of the week. Stick the number on the fridge or wall near where the kids play. Somewhere they are likely to see it regularly. You can do activities centered around the number of the week. For example, look for the number at home or whenever you are out shopping or riding.
Counts out loud to 10 and can write numbers to 10
Just like we want our children to learn the letters of the alphabet, we want to teach our children the symbols that represent our numbers, too. For now, being able to count orally to 10 and write numbers 0-10 will give your kid a huge leg up in kindergarten. They will be expected to count to 100 and write their numbers to 20 by the time they leave kindergarten.
Can your child count from 1-10 in order?
Can your child recognize numbers in the environment?
Does your child know the name for numbers?
Can your child write numbers 1-10?
Activities for Counting Out Loud to Ten and Using Numbers to Ten
Below are the activities you can do with your child to support them learning to count out loud to ten and in using numbers to ten.
This activity is called Bean Bag Toss, but it can be done with any small soft object. With a parent, another adult, or an older sibling, the child will toss the bean bag back and forth, counting each time it is tossed. When you get to 10, stop and start over again! This activity is a fun way to practice reciting numbers in order 1-10.
Small bean bag or any small soft object
The next activity is Number Trace. We have provided handouts for your child to practice tracing and writing their numbers. You can start by helping your child trace the numbers 1-10. When they are ready, they can trace them without your assistance. As they trace them, they should say the name of the number. You'll notice that we've given you several options – large and smaller numbers. We eventually want children to be able to write their numbers without tracing them, but that will come with practice. Remember that you can slip these in sheet protectors and use dry erase markers to use them over and over again.
Number Writing Practice Handouts
Writing tool–pencil, crayon, etc.
Understands "more", "less", "adding to" and "taking away"
This skill teaches your child number value and how to compare numbers. Remember, we are only introducing this skill; it will take lots of practice and exposure before they master it.
Once children have learned one-to-one correspondence and the numbers' names and symbols, the other big concept they need to understand is quantity. The idea of more/less (ex: 7 is more than 2, 3 is less than 6) and adding to/taking away are big ideas we want to make concrete through hands-on activities. I want to emphasize that you will use hands-on activities to practice these concepts and that they are getting ready for addition and subtraction. At this age, your child is not expected to do adding and subtraction drill sheets.
When your child grasps these concepts, they will be able to compare items visually, compare numbers, add one more to a set, and take one away from a group of objects.
Can your child compare items visually?
Can your child compare numbers?
Can your child add one more to a set?
Can your child take one away from a set?
Activities for Understanding "More", "Less", "Adding to" and "Taking Away"
Below are the activities you can do with your child to support their understanding of "more", "less", "adding to" and "taking away". Click on the title to reveal the activity content.
This activity is called More, Less, Same. Cut out the cards that look like dominoes on your handout and separate them into a red pile and a blue pile. Mix the two stacks up separately and set them side by side. Give your child one red dot card and one blue dot card. Have your child count the number of red and blue dots and determine which is more, which is less, or if the two cards are the same. As they count, have your child touch each dot. If it's helpful, have them place an object on each dot like a counting bear, bean, penny, etc. Have them practice using the language "more," "less," and "same."
If they need additional support, we have also included a frame/grid for them to place objects side by side to determine which is more, less, or if they are the same.
Small counting objects
Chocolate Kisses Math is our next activity. To do this fun and tasty activity, you will need the counting mat, and some chocolate kisses candy. Give your child a small pile of Hershey's Chocolate Kisses® on the counting mat. Try not to give numbers larger than 10. Have them count how many are in their stack. Then have them add one more kiss to their pile and see how many they have. Alternatively, they can take one away from their pile (or eat one! LOL!) and see how their number changes. Be sure you show them how to use the language of "one more," "one less," "add to," or "take away."
Chocolate kisses candy (or small counting objects)
Knows at least 3 shapes and colors and can sort objects accordingly
Why would knowing shapes and colors be important? Because shapes are everywhere!
Colors and shapes help children to organize and describe the world around them.
Learning shapes is the beginning step to learning deeper mathematical concepts that children will use throughout school and life.
Does your child know the names of basic shapes and colors?
Does your child recognize shapes and colors in the environment?
Can your child sort items based on shape and/or color?
Activities for Knowing at Least Three Shapes and Colors and Sorting Objects
Below are the activities you can do with your child to support them in learning shapes and colors and for sorting objects. Click on the title to reveal the activity content.
Choose a shape to focus on during a shopping trip for this game. Have your child count the number of times they see this shape along the way. Talk about the shape. Discuss the attributes of the shape. For example, you can talk about how many sides the shape has or the number of points or corners the shape has.
Use scissors to cut out the cards. The game starts with all the cards face down, and you and your child take turns turning over two cards to find matches. You have a match if the two cards have the same shape and color! When a person finds a match, the person gets to keep those cards. If they do not match, turn the cards face down again. When all the cards have been taken, the winner is the person with the most cards. We recommend that you start with a few shapes and add shapes when your child is ready.
Shape Memory Cards
Our next activity is Goldfish Cracker Sort. You will need a box or bag of rainbow fish crackers. There are enough fish in each box for multiple uses. Pour a handful out to use each time. Sort the fish by color onto the mat that is provided below or on a paper towel. Have your child describe each fish's color as they place it on the fish sort page. Your child can then count the number of fish they have for each color. Then have your child determine which is more and which is less.
Rainbow Goldfish crackers
Goldfish Cracker handout
You can use rainbow Goldfish crackers with the Goldfish Cracker Counting Sheet. Using this sheet, your child can sort the fish by color and then color a goldfish to represent each cracker in their pile. Then have your child count the crackers and write the number for each color. Talk about more, less, and same.
Rainbow Goldfish crackers
Goldfish Cracker Count handout
Patterns can be found everywhere in our daily lives and should be pointed out to our children. Many people think patterns are just something fun—but understanding patterns lay the foundation for future mathematical concepts that our children need to learn. Understanding patterns allows them to make educated guesses, develop problem-solving skills, and develop a clear understanding of mathematical relationships that they will need later in subjects like algebra and geometry.
Can your child recognize patterns?
Can your child explain (or label) a pattern?
Can your child continue a pattern (tell you what comes next)?
Activities to Support Your Child in Recognizing Patterns
Below are the activities you can do with your child to support them in recognizing patterns. Click on the title to reveal the activity content.
This activity is called Pattern Bears. You can use gummy bears to do this activity to make it fun and tasty. Using the bears and these handouts, you can help your child identify the pattern and decide what comes next. Your child can use a gummy bear to place in the empty box to extend the pattern. Be sure your child first discusses and describes the pattern. Several sheets are provided. Start with the simple ones and then move to the more advanced patterns. After practicing, you can have gummy bears for a treat!
Bear Pattern Handout
Our next activity is Goldfish Patterns. Using the colored Goldfish crackers and these handouts, have your child determine the pattern. Then have them extend it by placing the correctly colored goldfish in the blank spots. If you've run out of Goldfish, you can have your child color the empty areas. Several sheets are provided. Start with the simple ones and then move to the more advanced patterns. Again, be sure you talk with your child as they do this and describe the pattern.
Fish pattern handouts
Rainbow Goldfish crackers
Crayons or coloring pencils to color if no crackers available
Remember, children with a well-developed number sense succeed in early math and beyond. Now is the critical time to build those skills. Remember, your child needs practice and exposure to grasp these skills and be Kindergarten Ready! So, use these DEVELOPMENTALLY appropriate activities over and over!