Tag Archives: math activities for children

Support Your Child’s Math Development, Part 2: Preschool and Up

In last week’s math blog post we talked with Audrey Martínez-Gudapakkam, an associate researcher at TERC who evaluates K-12 STEM education programs and develops programs for Spanish-speaking families, about specific ways parents and caregivers can introduce math to their babies and toddlers.

 

In this post, Audrey and Marlene Kliman, a senior scientist at TERC, explain how adults can support a child’s learning as they enter school and begin interacting with math in the classroom. Marlene notes that as children begin working with addition, subtraction, and other math concepts, they develop a relationship with math that can follow them throughout their lives. Fostering a positive attitude toward math is one of the most important things an adult can do for their child.

 

Here are some suggestions for two age groups.

 

Children Ages 3-5

As children get older, they make connections to math concepts by talking through what they are doing and why. Asking children open-ended questions, Marlene says, helps them develop a deeper understanding of how math works instead of a right or wrong answer.

 

Audrey offers these ideas for engaging children in activities full of math learning.

 

Size and Measurement

“When we sort clean laundry, we talk together about clothing sizes for each person and how big belongs to Daddy, medium-sized is for Mommy, and small is for you,” Audrey says. “As we pick up clothing, I ask my daughter, ‘How do you know it is small, medium, or large? Check to see if it fits you.’ She can measure it by putting it on top of herself and measuring it against her body.”

Sorting laundry is a great time to talk with children about sizes. (from Rosa’s Very Big Job)

Numbers and Counting

While preparing food, Audrey talks about numbers with her daughter. She asks, “How do you know how many tomatoes we have?” Then she says, “Okay, let’s count them together.” As Audrey explains, “Counting physical objects helps them understand the concept of the number of elements in a set or group.”

 

Sequencing

While getting dressed or doing other routine activities, Audrey asks her daughter, “What do you need to put on first, second, third . . . last?” Or, “What do you do first, second, third . . . last?” Audrey says, “This awareness of steps in a process helps her learn about sequences, which in school can help her with computer programming.”

 

Children Ages 6 and Older

When children enter first grade, adults can help their children with homework by asking open-ended questions that prompt them to explain their thought process. Audrey says, “Whenever my daughter is doing her math homework, even if she gets the right answer, I always ask her, ‘How do you know? Show me how you know.’ I try to avoid telling her she’s wrong when she makes a mistake (which is hard because sometimes just by the tone of my voice she guesses it!). Instead, I try to help her notice the mistake herself as she checks her work, or we check the work using a different strategy. That way she can see where she made a mistake. Sometimes I might have her draw it or demonstrate it for me.”

 

Some other ideas Audrey suggests are:

  • Play a Game: “I tell my daughter, ‘I have a total of ten stones.’ I put three on the table and then have her explain how she knows how many stones are hiding in my hand.”
  • Count in Groups: “When we do counting, I ask her to count in groups of two, five, ten, et cetera. I tell her, ‘You know that your hand has five fingers, so you don’t have to count each one since you already know they add up to five.’”
  • Teach about Fractions: “At school my daughter is learning about quarters and halves so when I give her a cookie I ask her how she knows if a half or a quarter is more. Then I show her what each looks like by cutting the cookie.”

Several small parts can add up to one HUGE whole. (from Small Medium Large)

How do these strategies benefit kids for math learning and beyond? Audrey explains that by learning through practice, children discover they can continue to improve their math skills. When adults praise kids for not giving up even if they feel frustrated, it helps them develop social emotional skills for managing strong feelings. And children who can entertain themselves for long periods of time with building or creative projects develop strong reasoning and concentration skills.

 

Most importantly, instilling a positive attitude toward math helps children enjoy learning about it throughout their lives. “At one point,” Audrey says, “my daughter said, ‘I love math, and when I grow up I want to be a mathematician!’” This is the kind of enthusiasm we all want for our kids!

Talking about the Math around Us

 

Story Telling Math Logo

 

From babyhood on, children interact with a world full of math. In the first months, they begin to reach for toys, find out how much they can hold in one hand, and learn to take turns waving bye-bye. As they grow older they participate in games, crafts, and chores. All of these activities are full of opportunities for parents and caregivers to talk with children about the math of spatial relationships, sizes, shapes, quantities, measurements, and patterns.

 

Talking about the math all around you helps children connect familiar activities and objects to math concepts—it’s the best way to build a strong foundation for later school success.  For example:

 

  • When you’re pushing your baby on a swing at the playground, help build spatial sense by talking about positions:  “Swing up! Wheee, you swung down!”
  • When you and little ones are putting toys away, draw attention to shapes: “Let’s put the short, wide crayons in this box and the trucks with big, round wheels in this basket.”
  • If children are helping set the table, say: “You can find the water pitcher on the middle shelf above the plates and below the cups.”
  • Sorting clean clothes on laundry day is a perfect time to engage your children in comparing sizes and patterns: “Try to find a sock that matches your little yellow one with the ducks on it.  Look for one the same size and with the same pattern: white duck, brown duck, white duck, brown duck…”

Reading picture books together is also a wonderful way to engage young children in building math knowledge.  Just as everyday life is full of opportunities for including math, so are many picture books and stories. Star Bright Books has many picture books that can spark rich mathematical conversations and explorations. Just a few are:

Cake Day

Written by Ellen Mayer | Illustrated by Estelle Corke

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Cake Day is a charming story about a grandma and her grandson on a special baking day. As they bake a cake, Grandma and her grandson talk about measurements and the sequence of pouring batter into a pan, putting the pan into the oven, and waiting. Reading Cake Day together lets you talk about these ideas too! Why not bake a special treat together and talk about the recipe?

Harriet Can Carry It

Written by Kirk Mueller | Illustrated by Sarah Vonthron-Laver

star-bright-books-harriet-can-carry-it-cover

Harriet Can Carry It is a fun and funny story that can get kids thinking about how much something or someone can hold. This idea of capacity is important for filling cups, backpacks, pails, even a pet’s food and water dishes. You can talk with kids about how much Harriet can carry in her pouch. Could they carry that much? Would all of those things fit in your car? Would those items be heavy or light? Then see how much your child can carry!

Big Box for Ben

Written by Deborah Bruss | Illustrated by Tomek Bogacki

star-bright-books-big-box-for-ben-cover

Big Box for Ben is an imagination-filled adventure that kids will love to copy. As you read the story and watch Ben’s box become a race car, an airplane, a mountain, and an elephant, talk about the size and shape of Ben’s box, the idea of height, and how Ben fits inside. Little ones can point out—and act out—the math concepts of in, out, under, over, on top, and next to.

Cat Up, Cat Down

By Catherine Hnatov

star-bright-books-cat-up-cat-down-cover

Two adorable cats demonstrate spatial relationships as they play hide-and-seek behind a plant, peek through a window at each other from inside and outside, sit close together then walk far apart, and spend the day doing things together. Little ones will love pretending to be kittens and playing along as they learn spatial opposites!

 

You can find many more Star Bright Books that are full of the Math Around Us on our website!

 

Star Bright Books is grateful to the Heising-Simons Foundation for their support in helping us work with TERC to highlight the math in our books as part of the Storytelling Math project.

You Can Do It!

Here are three activity sheets that you can use to talk with children about math ideas while playing or doing everyday things. They give you easy ways to use words and actions that promote math learning. Just click on the image of the sheet to download or print.

Laundry Love

star-bright-books-laundry-love-activity-sheet

Folding and putting away clean laundry is a great way to talk about matching and sorting. Have kids find pairs of socks, make separate piles of tops, pants, and underwear, or talk about small and large sizes.  This activity shows you how! Just click on the image of the sheet to download or print.

Build a Tower as Tall as You

star-bright-books-tower-building-activity-sheet

With some recycled boxes and other containers, little ones will love pretending and building towers, cities, or whatever they can imagine. As children play, talk with them about the sizes and shapes of the containers, the height of their towers, and why one tower stands while another one falls. Just click on the image of the sheet to download or print.

Handy Homemade Play Dough

star-bright-books-handy-homemade-play-dough-activity-sheet

Use the easy recipe to make one or more batches of play dough. Talk about the recipe and how you put it together while making the play dough. Then have a play dough party to explore size, shape, amounts, and capacity! Just click on the cover images for more information.

Get the Books!

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    star-bright-books-eating-the-rainbow-spanish-english-cover    star-bright-books-harriet-can-carry-it-cover   

    star-bright-books-red-socks-spanish-english-cover            

You can order all of our Math Around Us books on the Star Bright Books Website. You can also find them on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or other online booksellers.