learning to count

Dinovember: Counting Dinosaurs and Number Sense

Number sense develops as children play with and experience numbers. Counting dinosaurs is an appealing and fun activity for young children.

toys for math funDollar stores often have inexpensive bags with an assortment of dinosaurs. These can be used for counting and other fun. Kids just learning to count may not have all the names for the numbers and they may not be able to say them in the right order, but counting accurately develops from countless practice doing it over and over.

Not only are kids learning to count, they are figuring out how many items go with each number. To develop the concept of ‘twoness’, the brain needs to see, hear, and feel how many is two many, many times. As kids hear us and themselves counting two, see two objects and feel two, the brain makes the connections and pathways. This is part of number sense.

counting with dinosaursAs kids are counting, we can occasionally ask them to show us how many is 3 dinosaurs and other numbers too. We can make comments like, “Oh look, 4 dinosaurs is more than 2. I can see 4 dinosaurs here and only 2 over there. ” We can listen to them count and when they stop, add one more and say the number. It’s obvious to us, but it takes practice to understand that counting the next number means adding one more. Of course, older kids will be able to count much higher and more accurately than younger ones.

Mathematician William Paul Thurston is often quoted as saying, “Mathematics is not about numbers, equations, computations, or algorithms, it’s about understanding.” Understanding will grow as children have opportunities to play with numbers.

Speaking of numbers:

  1. Do you know what is a T. Rex’s favorite number?
  2. It’s eight (ate.)

How many dinosaurs can come out and play at your house or center?

Halloween Math: V is for Vampires That Count

In folklore, vampires are obsessed with counting. For some Halloween math, how about kid vampires that count? Remember, Count von Count from Sesame Street? He counted everything.

"Count von Count kneeling" by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia
“Count von Count kneeling” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia

Perhaps, this mania for counting is why so many vampires are called Count. Whatever the play on words, counting can also be a form of play. For kids to count, they need to know more than just the names for numbers. They need to know that each time we say a number we mean one more thing. To us, this seems so obvious but it isn’t to kids. This is something they need to figure out and discover for themselves. To do this, they need countless experiences (pun intended along with a chuckle) with math and numbers.

Halloween mathDollar stores have bags of small items that are fun to count. Last year, we found some plastic leaves in orange, red, and yellow for fall. This year, we got a big of small Halloween objects like bugs and skeletons. Just setting them out was an invitation to play. Big Sister sorted them out and counted how many there were of each kind.

count-skeletonsLittle Sister copied but didn’t always get the words for the numbers in the right order. No matter, it’s all part of the learning process. While they were having fun, I occasionally asked questions like: Are there more skeletons or more spiders? If you count the skeletons and the skulls how many would there be then?

halloween one-to-one matchingBig Sister put some of the items in a pattern or sequence. She also matched one bug to one skeleton. This one-to-one correspondence or matching is another critical skill. One number matches to one thing in math. In language, when we speak and read, one word matches to one meaning.

Vampire pointy teeth are not needed for some math and number play. When counting, remember to laugh and use your funniest Count von Count voices. Isn’t this vonderful fun?

Colors of Childhood: Colors for Counting and Numbers

Colors can be part of helping kids explore some basic and critical math. Play activities can use colors for counting and numbers.

color blocks for math playYoung children will explore numbers on their own using the words they have heard as they stack blocks or put small things in containers. Although it’s not accurate, they are getting the ideas that numbers tell the story of how many there are, of the quantity of something. They need lots of practice before counting is accurate.

colors blocks for numbersAs kids play, we can occasionally ask questions like: How many red blocks? How many blue dinosaurs? We can also ask them to compare: Are there more red cars or more green ones?  Questions like these can be part of play as appropriate. These  blocks are stacked up to be towers of different numbers.

board games for math funOlder kids might like to explore numbers and counting with board games. Often, boards will have different colors for the spaces and each person’s marker will be a particular color. We don’t even notice how colors are used, they just seem to be part of the background.

deck of cards for countingDecks of cards use only 2 colors, red or black, but the colors and numbers work together. Kids can match colors or numbers in a variety of card games. They will often invent their own ways to play with cards.

One of the tools used in kindergarten for helping kids with numbers is the Power of Ten cards. These are long, narrow grids with two rows of five squares. The squares are colored in to make the numbers. Kids had fun putting blocks on top of the colored squares or other items. They often made their own numbers using the zero cards.power of ten cardsThese are only a few suggestions for activities that kids can use colors for counting and numbers. Hopefully, they will inspire you to find ways to support your child’s play. Could we color and count the ways?

Some Handy Ideas for Kindergarten Readiness: Counting

1 little, 2 little, 3 little fingers can all be used for counting which is another kindergarten readiness learning and fun activity. Counting can be done anywhere and at anytime. Not only is counting an early math skill, it is also the base for number sense. As children repeat the experience of counting over and … Continue reading Some Handy Ideas for Kindergarten Readiness: Counting

Kindergarten Readiness Rocks! Counting Rocks

For some very inexpensive kindergarten readiness math fun and learning for young children, use rocks. Usually, rocks are quite easy to find and they can be fun to count. When counting, as you can, help your child point to or touch only one rock at a time. They will make mistakes as they learn how … Continue reading Kindergarten Readiness Rocks! Counting Rocks