Pump up math skills as the countdown to school begins!

As the summer winds down and the beginning of a new school year quickly approaches, it is a great time to help children refresh their math skills. For young children entering preschool or kindergarten, beginning math skills actually involve two different skill sets: 1) being able to count correctly by memory from 1 to 10 and 2) learning the concept of one-to-one correspondence.

The ability to count by memory means that a child has accurately memorized the order of the numbers and can recite them correctly. At this point in time, a child may not know the numerical symbols that represent each number, but that is okay. Accurately counting aloud is the foundation for math skills, so it is the perfect place to start. Consider trying some of these fun activities with your child to help him master the order of the numbers.

  • Add the element of counting to familiar games you play with your little one. For instance, when playing Peek-a-Boo, count aloud to five each time before pulling your hands away from your face. Or play a game in which you count aloud to 10 before tickling your child. He will learn to expect that tickle once you finish counting. And repeatedly hearing the order of the numbers said aloud will help him learn how to count.
  • Put on some music with a strong beat. Clap and count repeatedly to 10 along with the beat of the music. Or add some steps and march as you and your child count aloud.
  • Play Hide and Seek and demonstrate how to count aloud to ten while your child hides. Help him count aloud when it is his turn until he is able to count by himself.
  • Find counting songs for children and play the CD often. Your child will soon be singing and counting along with the song!
  • Introduce your child to number worksheets that highlight a single number and a corresponding group of that many items for your child to count. Encourage your child to trace his finger along the outline of the number to get familiar with the number’s formation as you practice saying aloud the name of the number.

Once your child is comfortable counting from 1 to 10, you can move on to helping him mater the idea of of counting with one-to-one correspondence. This is the skill of assigning a new number to each item when counting and comes with practice and with developmental growth. For example, with time and experience, a child eventually understands that an item dropped off his highchair tray is not gone, but is on the floor. In the same way, practice and time will help a child understand that when he counts, each item is counted once and given its own number.

As a preschool and kindergarten teacher, I often saw children proudly count by memory from 1 to 10, for example, as they randomly touched a group of five or seven blocks I had set on the table. It was clear that they did not yet understand that counting meant assigning the next higher number to the next item being counted. However, in order to count accurately, a chld must understand that each number can only be assigned to one item.

Consider some of these activities to provide your child with practice counting with one-to-one correspondence.

  • Read counting books to your child. A librarian can help you locate these easily. Counting books generally have vivid pictures to be counted. Demonstrate pointing to each picture as you count it and then ask your child to touch each picture as he counts.
  • Demonstrate one-to-one correspondence when you give your child a snack. Tell him how many cookies or jelly beans he will get. Then count as you place the snack, one piece at a time, on his plate. Then ask him to count aloud as you point to each piece on the snack plate and let him tell you when you have handed out the intended amount.
  • Ask your child to pick 3, 4, or 5 small books to be read to him at bedtime. As he brings you each book he selects, count aloud. Then spread the books out on the table or bed and ask him to hand you each book and count as he does this. Count out loud with him if he has difficulty.
  • Use sidewalk chalk to draw a path about a foot wide. Then draw lines across the path to create squares. Ask your child to count how many squares in the path by stepping into each square and counting aloud for each step he takes. By stepping into a square and saying the next number, your child will learn that each square is counted exactly one time.
  • Let your child help you set the table for dinner. Remind him how many people will be eating. Place a group of spoons in a row in front of your child. Ask him to count aloud and pick up a spoon for each number that he counts until he reaches the correct amount needed.
  • Place a group of small objects, such as wooden blocks, in a line in front of your child. Ask him to tell you how many blocks, for example, are in the line. Encourage him to touch each block as he counts to show his understanding of one-to-one correspondence. If he has difficulty, ask him to count slowly as you touch each block to demonstrate.
  • Introduce your child to learning numbers worksheets that focus on counting small groups of items using one-to-one correspondence. Remind your child to use his finger to touch each item being counted as he moves from left to right along a row, as this will help him stay organized and easily remember which items he has already counted

I hope this post gives you some fun and easy ideas for helping your child brush up on his math skills before the new school year begins. Also, with the summer winding down, please look for a new crop of kindergarten worksheets to be added to the School Sparks website in the coming weeks. As with last year, my goal is to add at least one new set of worksheets each week, so you will always have plenty of new material to try with your child!

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