Math and Numbers

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?

Color Play for One-to-One Matching

Colors can be used for some amazing play opportunities. Unexpectedly, doing some exercises led to color play for one-to-one matching.

play with color matsChildren’s play is immensely interesting to watch. Given time and space to play, kids will challenge themselves to solve problems while they are having fun. Little Sister started out with a 4 soft mats in different colors. First, she made a color road and did some running and jumping. As she was putting them together, I asked her about the colors and made some incidental comments, such as the red one was attached to the green one and what color was attached to yellow, etc. She tried a few somersaults and jumps too.

After some time doing exercises, she looked around for something else. For some reason, she then piled the chair cushions on the mats, with one cushion on each mat. She jumped from one cushion to the other for a bit. play with color mats

Her next move, was to put one place mat on each cushion, making another layer. She didn’t jump on these. Apparently, it was enough to put one cushion on each mat, and one place mat on each cushion.

play with color mats

One to one matching or correspondence seems obvious to us but it’s something kids need to practice. It’s a critical thinking strategy for reading and math. In math, one number goes to one item. In language, one spoken word goes to one meaning and in reading, one word squiggle goes also goes to one word.

play with color matsBesides colors, there are other ways for kids to explore one-to-one. At the table, every person gets one plate. When dressing, one foot has one sock and shoe. In our interactions with others, one-to-one is often used to solve difficulties. Everybody gets one turn before someone has another. When passing around the cookies, each person takes one.

Play stretches bodies and brains. This color play was a fun way to explore one to one correspondence or matching. How does your child play with colors?

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. 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

Off to School Toolbox: One-to-One Correspondence

One-to-one correspondence or one-to-one matching is another vital skill for kids to have in their learning toolbox, even if it seems easy and obvious to us. This is so critical that we don’t think of it as something kids have to learn, but what exactly is it? Basically, it’s being able to link one item … Continue reading Off to School Toolbox: One-to-One Correspondence