Easy Ways to Bolster Early Math Skills

One of the easiest ways to support early math development is to build math language into your daily play and conversations with your child. Math language includes numbers, amount, measurement and position words.

  • Numbers – Count napkins as you put them on the table, or count toys as you put them in the toy box. Talk about how many animals you see at the zoo and how many french fries are on their plate.
  • Amount – This includes using descriptors such as some, more, a little, a lot, more than, less than, a couple, a few, several and many.
  • Measurement – Discuss how small, big, short, long, light or heavy things are.
  • Position – This includes words such as in, on, over, under, near, far, above and below.

Other ways to encourage early math skills include:

  • Play board games – Many children’s board games practice early math concepts including Memory, Hi Ho Cheerio, Chutes and Ladders, Colorama and Uno.
  • Talk about the daily math you do – When you go to the grocery store, you may be calculating how much time you have, how much money you have, the weight of fruit and the discount of coupons. The idea is to discuss the basics of this math with your children.
  • Cook together – Most recipes include directions about measurement, temperature and time. Point out and discuss the math as you enjoy cooking together.

Early Math Skills

I had the pleasure this morning of talking to 220 home daycare providers. Most of them work with children birth through five years old. The topic was the importance of introducing math concepts and ways to best do this by age. Below are a few take-aways for parents from the workshop.

  • Math is much wider than numbers and counting – Of course, it is numbers and counting, but early math also includes sorting, matching, drawing similarities and differences, shapes, weight, time, space, balance, proportion, sequencing and patterns.
  • Introduce math concepts through play – Add measuring cups to your sand or water table. Play “Mother May I” requiring them to ask and count out the specific steps.
  • Include them in your everyday math – This is as small as 1:1 correspondence of counting the napkins when you set the table and as big as keeping a running price tally in the grocery store.
  • Following recipes and cooking together is an easy way – Talk about the sequence of directions and the importance of following each step. Highlight the measurements and temperatures.
  • Carry school concepts to real life – If they are learning about counting money in first grade, start using cash and let them be in charge of paying as you go.
  • Read about it – There are lots of good books below.
  1. Counting Crocodile by Sierra
  2. Henry the Fourth by Murphy
  3. Mouse Count by Walsh
  4. Mouse Shapes by Walsh
  5. Each Orange had 8 Slices by Giganti
  6. Fish Eyes: A Book You Can Count On by Ehlert
  7. Ten Flashing Fireflies by Sturges
  8. Sorting by Pluckrose
  9. Length by Pluckrose
  10. Double the Ducks by Murphy
  11. Pattern by Pluckrose
  12. 12 Ways to Get to 11 by Merriam
  13. When a Line ends a Shape Begins by Greene
  14. Animals on Board by Murphy
  15. Just Enough Carrots by Murphy
  16. More or Less by Murphy
  17. Size by Pluckrose
  18. The Mission of Addition by Cleary
  19. Subtraction Action by Leedy
  20. Mission: Addition by Leedy
  21. Elevator Magic by Murphy
  22. Tally O’Malley by Murphy
  23. Math for all Seasons by Tang
  24. Math Potatoes by Tang
  25. Math Curse by Scieszka
  26. Math Fables by Tang
  27. The Grapes of Math by Tang
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