Understanding Numbers

It’s very common to hear young children counting. They count up and down steps. They count cars passing. They count the number of people sat round the table. But do they really understand what numbers are?  It’s unlikely because basic number concepts and number conservation are not easy to acquire and so it’s important to start early. 

How can we help? 

Children learn best through play so letting them play around with a few counters or bricks is a good start. Begin with one number. Have it as the ‘number of the week’ . Place visual prompts around the house. Magnets on the fridge. Mats on the tables. Toys etc. 

For example if its number 3. 

  • Have 3 magnets on the fridge. Encourage your child to change the pattern. This will help them to develop an understanding of the number. To realise that three magnets remain three no matter what pattern they make.  
  • Set the table for a tea party with three place settings. Help them to put out three spoons, three plates etc. 
  • Make ‘cakes’ from playdough and give each toy three cakes. 
  • It’s fun to make your own board games. They don’t need to be elaborate or fancy!  For very  small children I like to make them without numbers. (See the video).  Children love ‘action’ games so a board game where actions have to be performed is great fun.  Keep the numbers on the dice low. Maybe just 1 2 and 3.  When the dice is thrown then the counter is moved that number of places and the action shown on the square is performed the same number of times.  So, for example, if you throw 3 you move 3 squares and if the square indicates to clap hands then you clap hands 3 times! 
  • Going out on a number hunt is fun. It can also be very useful for parents when they have to do something boring as it keeps the child’s attention!  Numbers are everywhere. On clocks, car number plates, doors, signs. Spotting the number of the week on such an excursion is a great way to reinforce number recognition. 
  • Shopping is good for practicing real life maths.   Children can be asked to put a certain number of  items into the shopping trolley. This activity will also keep them from getting bored and cranky! 

Don’t pay out lots of money on number resources. Very effective ones can be made at home using resources you already have in the house. Let the children help to make them and encourage them to come up with suggestions for new ones. 

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