Last summer at a blog conference I was privileged to meet the lovely Bethany from Math Geek Mama. It’s rare to find a blog dedicated to thoughtful, high quality math activities for kids. Be sure to visit her site for helpful hints and free printables… for kids of all ages!
The preschool years can be so much fun, but they can also be stressful if you’re concerned about your child’s education. Should you send your child to preschool or teach him at home? Can you adequately prepare him? What do kids need to know before kindergarten anyway?
It might seem even more overwhelming if you don’t consider yourself a math person and don’t know where to start with math instruction. But the great news is that preparing your child for kindergarten math can be simple and fun, and doesn’t have to require lots of prep and materials. In fact, it can be as easy as sharing a bag of Skittles!
One of the best things you can do to prepare your child for math success is to engage in math and number talk. While talking may seem intuitive when it comes to language development, it may not seem as obvious in math, but it’s very easy to do.
Here are some basic math concepts to work on, and simple ways that you can practice and discuss math together by sharing a bag of Skittles (or jelly beans or M&Ms):
- Counting and Cardinality
Hopefully by the time your child is entering Kindergarten he can count to ten, and is starting to understand cardinality (“how many”). When you give him a handful of Skittles, simply ask, “How many do you have?” This will allow him to practice counting as well as understand that the final number in the count tells the quantity.
You can then further his understanding by showing that the quantity changes as you give them more or as they eat them. Continue to ask questions such as, “How many do you have now?” or “How many reds do you have?”
- Represent Quantities with Objects
Your child also needs to work on recognizing and naming the numbers from 1-10 and representing quantities with the correct number. To help him match his pile of Skittles to the correct number, you can write the numbers out on index cards and have him count out the correct number for each, or you can use the number cards from a deck of cards. Let them draw a card, and then count out the correct number of Skittles.
- Sort, Classify and Compare
Sorting and classifying objects is another important skill to work on, which can be easily practiced with a handful of Skittles. Let him sort the various colors, and then compare colors using words like “more than,” “less than,” or “equal to.” Here’s a simple printable pack to help you.
- Make and Recognize Patterns
Many people see mathematics as “the science of patterns,” so it’s important to start developing this skill early. You can take turns making patterns out of the different colored Skittles, or you can start a pattern and ask your child to complete it. Ask questions as you go, such as “Can you describe the pattern to me?” or “How do you know that green is next in the pattern?”
These free Skittles pattern cards are also a great way to help kids practice!
- Graphing the Frequency:
Counting out the different colors and then graphing the frequency of each color is a great way to practice counting, cardinality, and comparing quantities, as well develop fine motor skills. Seeing the different numbers on a bar graph provides a helpful visual, as well as introducing graphs and data collection.
This count and graph printable pack includes a bar graph as well as a circle graph.
- Recognize and Name Basic Shapes
The last skill you should work on with your child is recognizing basic shapes. Easily practice by observing shapes in the world around you (or go on a shape scavenger hunt). You can even try to form different shapes out of Skittles! This provides great visual spatial practice as your child has to picture the shape and then create the outline with his candy.
Hopefully this brief overview of early math skills has given you lots of ideas to explore with your kids and the confidence to prepare them for Kindergarten math!
Keep math fun!
Bethany is the mom behind the blog, MathGeekMama.com, a website dedicated to helping parents and educators teach math in a way that is fun and engaging, while building a strong conceptual understanding of mathematics. When she’s not playing with numbers, she’s exploring with her four little ones, drinking way too much coffee, or soaking up the chaos of everyday life. Catch up with her on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter or Instagram!
*Stock images via iStock. Used with permission.
© 2016, Anna Geiger. All rights reserved.