By the age of 2, many children will parrot the words 'one', 'two', 'three', 'four', 'five' etc. However, rarely do they understand that the number refers to an item or a set of items. At this stage, children do not have 'number conservation' or 'number correspondence'. Sharon believes that “Classification is a pre-number concept” (S. Blackman, 2014). We classify on a regular basis without even considering what we're actually doing. We look in indexes that are alphabetized or numerically arranged, we purchase groceries in areas of food groups, we classify to sort laundry and we sort our cutlery and crockery before putting it away. Children can benefit from a variety of classification activities which will also support early numeracy concepts. Below are some basic developmental ideas/activities that Sharon has previously implemented over the years with her own children and throughout her teaching career.
-Use blocks to engage young children to repeat the patterns.....blue, green, orange etc.
-Ask young children to sort the silverware or the laundry based on colour.
-Use shapes to encourage children to determine what comes next----triangle, square, circle, triangle, etc.
-Ask children to think of everything they can write with, ride on, what swims, what flies etc.
-Ask children how many items in the living room are square or round or heavy etc.
-Ask them to tell you how many things are made of wood, plastic, metal etc.
-Extend classification activities to include more than one attribute (heavy and small, or square and smooth etc.)
Before Children Count
Children need to 'match sets' before they will understand 'number conservation' and that counting is actually referring to sets of items. Children are guided by their perceptions and will think that there are more grapefruits than lemons in a pile due to the actual size of the piles. Children need to do one to one matching activities to help them develop conservation of number. The child will move one lemon and you can move the grapefruit. Repeat the process so that the child can see the number of fruits is the same. These experiences will need to be repeated often in a concrete manner, which enables the child to manipulate the items and become engaged in the process.
- Draw a number of circles (faces) and put down a number of buttons for eyes. Ask the child if there are enough eyes for the faces and how they can find out. Repeat this activity for mouths, noses etc. Speak in terms of more than and less than or as many as and how can we find out.
- Use stickers to make patterns on a page or classify them by attributes. Arrange a row of a set number of stickers, arrange a second row with more spaces between the stickers, and ask the child if there are the same number of stickers or more or less. Ask how they can find out - DON'T COUNT! Match the stickers one to one.
- Arrange items on a tray (toothbrush, comb, spoon etc.) ask the child to look away, rearrange the items to see if they realize the number of items is still the same or if they think it's different.
Children enjoy telling us that they are 'bigger' than their sister or brother or 'taller' than the lamp or that they are 'higher' than the dishwasher. Young children will also think that they have 'more' in their cup simply because their cup is taller. This type of language needs to be promoted and children need guidance to help with the misconceptions of these concepts through experimentation. The bathtub is a great starting point, using a variety of plastic cylinders/cups and containers. At this age, perception is the child's guide, they do not have any other strategies to guide them in determining which has more or less, is heavier or lighter etc.
Providing your children with the opportunity to experience maths through these activities can make maths fun and more stimulating as well as implement memorable learning experiences. There are countless ways to incorporate math activities into daily routines and experiences.