Children need exposure to numbers in many different ways before they grasp the basics of maths. Varying exposure to numbers sets them up to understand more complex concepts when the time comes.
Repeated experiences help to build confidence, understanding and fluency with numbers. The more you talk to kids about numbers and the patterns that exist, the more comfortable they will be in spotting those patterns.
Never miss an opportunity to count, order, divide, or share with children. They don’t even need to know they are learning. If there are four chocolates left and two children are sharing, point out that four left means two each if they are being divided evenly. Or you could discuss how a packet of cookies initially had twelve cookies, but once the child ate one there is only eleven, and if you take one too there will be ten left and so on.
You may get a little sick of the “playing with food” that can result when children get excited about counting and creating equations with different items. (It can mean those green peas never actually get eaten!)
When numbers and basic maths become part of a child’s everyday life, the progression to more structured maths learning is a lot smoother. Many fun games exist that help this process.
10 Ten Frame Activities is a resource that assists in building children’s mental flexibility and fluency with number concepts. Each set includes colourful number playing cards, dot tiles and ten frame trains to be used in activities of varying difficulty.
The ten activities in the Teacher Guide included in each set are written by Dr Paul Swan, a highly regarded Australian maths educator. These activities are designed to assist in the teaching of concepts such as making a ten, odd and even numbers, sorting and classifying, as well as linking words and symbols for both single-digit and teen numbers.
Once children have completed a few of the activities, you may find they begin to suggest other options that are possible, or talk about different patterns they have noticed. Run with the conversation to gain an even greater understanding of how the child is viewing and understanding numbers at this stage.
The full list of activities and concepts include in 10 Ten Frame Activities can be found here.