Have you been watching any World Cup Soccer? Soccer games use some basic math concepts–most important is the score–and can help kids as they learn and develop their number sense.
It is easy for kids to understand that each time a ball goes in the net that it is counted. As children sort out that numbers mean ‘how many’, they start to count. Actually, kids begin by just saying the numbers. For counting, children need to figure out that one number goes with one thing. This is called one-to-one correspondence and is a basic math concept.
Being able to match one item to one number is a key to understanding how the number system works. Children may be able to say numbers in order but may not necessarily figure out that each time they count means one more. Kids need to understand this 1-to-1 relationship first so they can link one number to one object or action.
For kids to grasp this idea they need to have lots of play experiences with one to one matching. Soccer can be one of those close encounters of the number kind. One kick that goes in the net means one number. In the backyard or park, rather than having 2 different sides, it’s fun for whoever is playing to have just one net and anybody can score. Of course, this isn’t like real soccer where a ball in the net is counted as 1 for one team and the next ball in the net can be a number 1 again as long as it’s the opposing team. Otherwise, it’s counted as 2. If the other team hasn’t scored yet, then a 1 can come after 2, or 3, or even more. Just keeping score in a game can be complicated for kids.
There are lots of other ways to play with one-to-one matching at home: one plate for everyone at dinner, one person on each chair, one shoe on each foot. Kids will think of their own ideas for matching, or maybe that should be mathing? How many numbers does this math fun and learning score?