Math is going shopping for a dozen eggs and three pounds of sweet potatoes or sharing your candy bar among five friends. Math is collecting “milk rings” or gathering three tons of old newspapers for the Scout paper drive.
Math is sorting clothes on washday or dividing a juicebox for you and your sister so that it is “fair.” Math is saving fifty cents a week out of your allowance to buy that great kite you saw at the store or figuring out how much material you would need in order to make a shirt from the pattern you have. In this way, children will grow to see math as natural and significant.
In simple card games such as Go Fish, Concentration or Crazy Eights, children learn many important concepts. They identify numbers, match numbers or objects and practice memory skills. They also develop fine motor skills by picking up and handling the cards.
By playing dominoes or games with dice, children learn to count the dots and relate those dots to the numbers they represent. Moving game pieces the right number of spaces on a board adds the concept of one-to-one correspondence, and constantly comparing the rolled numbers helps develop number sense.
Before I introduce “subtraction” to my kindergarten students, I like to show the children a series of pictures, having them attempt to imagine previous stages of objects in the picture.
For example, if shown a plant, the children might tell about it being planted from a seed. If shown a plate of cookies, the children might recall raw dough or the basic ingredients. If shown a fried egg, the children might imagine a chicken laying an egg or a carton of eggs in the refrigerator.
This activity requires the children to “reverse their thinking,” something rarely required of them but which prepares them to understand subtraction.
There are many other “everyday” mathematical experiences that can help your child in the early years: setting the table, filling the glasses only half-way with milk, dividing a pizza equally for four people, making a gallon of lemonade, baking a cake, measuring ingredients, pressing the numbers on an ATM Machine, making a telephone call and pouring laundry soap into the washing machine.
Remember to use these “teachable moments” whenever possible with your child.