Preparing Your Child For: Math
Preparing your child for math can be fun and easy. This article has tips on preparing your child for counting, dividing, comparing, sorting, and measuring. Exposure to all of the these skills can help prepare your child for studying math in school.
It’s possible to prepare your child well for school math experiences without specialized knowledge and while simply going about tasks that are customary for most people. Cooking, shopping, and playing games often have a math component that you can bring to your child’s attention to help him or her learn and prepare for what’s to come.
Knowing the names of the numbers and being able to count go hand-in-hand. Reciting poems like
1, 2, 3, 4, 5:
caught a hare alive.
6, 7, 8, 9, 10:
I let it go again.
and “One, Two, Buckle My Shoe” helps a child to learn numbers painlessly. There are counting songs, as well, including “This Old Man,” “The Ants Go Marching,” and “Green Grow the Rushes, O,” which have cardinal numbers (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc.) and “The Twelve Days of Christmas” which has both cardinal and ordinal numbers (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, etc.).
Opportunities to count don’t always come in an obvious math context. They may arise while setting the table, choosing loose fruit and/or vegetables at the grocery store, choosing which check-out line to stand in, etc. If your family plays games with cards or other items that are handed out by a dealer, this is another opportunity for counting. And dot-to-dots let art and math link together.
Dividing may seem like a complex math operation, but if you think about it as “sharing by separating into equal portions” its importance to a young child may become more obvious. Cutting a sandwich in half, sharing a handful of cookies fairly with a sibling, serving a pound of cherries to everyone in the family, all entail dividing. The concepts of equal portions and the math words for fractions like halves, quarters, thirds, etc., are easy to introduce because they’re relevant and not forced.
When we check our dividing, we enter the realm of comparing - are two things the same or different? Math words like bigger, smaller, more, less, fewer, and most and least are naturals to introduce here. Comparison can be fostered by asking children to check any of the dividing tasks mentioned above, and by games as well. The card game called War requires constant comparison of the cards put down by each player. So does dominoes. Lotto requires visual comparison, and Bingo requires comparing a verbal version of a number with what it looks like written down.
Sorting and dividing are similar, but sorting is dividing into specific categories. We would be more likely to sort laundry by the owner than to simply divide it into piles with equal numbers of shirts, socks, etc. After being sorted by owner, laundry often gets sorted a second time by whether its stored in the sock drawer, hung in the closet, etc. Besides laundry, we may sort coins in order to roll them and take them to the bank (in which case we can talk about the value of the different coins). We are also likely to sort groceries by where they are stored (refrigerator? pantry? freezer?) and the various items in the dishwasher or drainer by where they are stored, too.
Baking anything from scratch pretty inevitably requires measuring. Here again we see the fraction words, but here combined with measurement units (1/3 cup; ½ tablespoon). We can also measure food for pets and how tall children have grown. We can weigh produce in the grocery store or at the farm, as well. We can measure time with watches and clocks, and elapsed time with kitchen timers.
With all the ways that math comes into our daily lives, children can easily gain comfort with math concepts and vocabulary before they begin school.