Children’s play counts when it comes to early learning and development so an idea for a play-of-the-day is Star Wars math counting and patterning.
Not having Star Wars characters and toys isn’t even a problem. We have a few but not enough to count—pardon the pun—so instead we used some glow-in-the-dark stars that came from a dollar store. We needed something else so borrowed the round plastic pieces from a checkerboard game to be planets. Planets are certainly part of Star Wars.
Whatever you use, there are lots of ways that kids can count, such as all one color, or all of one kind. The important part is to touch each item as the number is said. Saying the numbers accurately comes with lots of repetition but this isn’t all there is to counting. To understand counting, kids need to figure out that each object goes with a number. As we count, each number means one more thing. Developing this number sense also needs practice as well as hands-on time. Lots and lots of hands on opportunities. As in countless…chuckle, chuckle.
Patterning is also a critical math skill. For that matter, it’s more than that, it’s a critical thinking skill. Information bombards the brain in vast quantities and finding a pattern reduces it into a smaller amount. We made some simple patterns star/planet, star/planet and blue star/pink star, blue star/pink star. Little Sister made another of her own, 2 blue stars/2 pink stars, 2 blue stars/2 pink stars.
After that, she wanted to use the planets and stars as money and play that way. More Star Wars math counting and patterning and now money. Such play will help children develop familiarity with math. Math anxiety is all too common, even in the early grades. If kids have been able to play with math, they are confident and eager.
Number sense develops as children play with and experience numbers. Counting dinosaurs is an appealing and fun activity for young children.
Dollar 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.
As 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:
Do you know what is a T. Rex’s favorite number?
It’s eight (ate.)
How many dinosaurs can come out and play at your house or center?
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.
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.
Dollar 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.
Little 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?
Big 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 can be part of helping kids explore some basic and critical math. Play activities can use colors for counting and numbers. Young 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 … Continue reading Colors of Childhood: Colors for Counting and Numbers→
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→
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→