Math Explorations

Hands-on math activities for preschoolersA lovely reader asked how I introduced numbers to Jack. I was having a bit of a think about it and the earliest I can remember was reading number plates in a shopping centre carpark when Jack was a little younger than two.

Like many people I would say, we simply talked about numbers in our everyday life; May I have 2 pencils please? That house is number 20. How many blocks do you have? We need 2 cups of flour for this recipe…

Jack learnt to count to 10 and quantify 1-5 soon enough. He didn’t know how to write the numbers, but we weren’t too worried about that.

About 8 months ago I thought Jack was ready for some more complex math. He had been making small sums in his head; adding the number of people at the table, adding his food on his plate, and so I thought I would introduce addition.

Hands-on math activities for preschoolersAt the time, while he enjoyed the activity, I don’t think in hindsight that Jack was completely ready; there was probably more of me wanting to teach addition than there was him wanting to learn.  Jack went on counting numbers and that suited him. I didn’t put out any more math explorations until I noticed a strong intrinsic motivation from Jack.

This came about a couple of months ago. I put out a small calculator when I was rotating the toys. Jack was so intrigued by it and played with the calculator almost exclusively for a couple of days.
Hands-on math activities for preschoolersJack loves numbers so much now that he’ll describe something in terms of numbers; if something was really fun, like the twisty slide at the Arboretum, he’ll describe it as the biggest number he can think of, “Mummy that slide was SO fun. It was a hundred thousand and two hundred and fifty-five!’ It’s quite endearing.

We’ve come back to addition, this time with an intrinsic drive that only comes when you truly follow a child’s lead and act when they are ready.

You know Jack loves blocks and building, so we’ve been doing a lot of adding with blocks. We also use loose materials:Hands-on math activities for preschoolers

  • glass beads
  • sea glass
  • felt eggs
  • wood chips
  • small plain and coloured wooden cubes
  • stones
  • mosaic kitchen tiles…

Hands-on math activities for preschoolersas well as our sandpaper numbers, our numbers & counters and some number stones.

I also picked up some cedar rings from K-mart (pack of 10 $2). We’ve been using them for both addition and subtraction; threading rings as he counts onto craft wire.

Hands-on math activities for preschoolersJack found subtraction a little difficult; even though he could quantify most any number, he didn’t quite understand numbers in relation to each other and couldn’t say which number was bigger than the other. A little bit of greater than and less than work with loose parts soon helped him understand.

Hands-on math activities for preschoolers Hands-on math activities for preschoolersI have a few math trays on the  playroom shelves at the moment (threading, dominoes and number stones) along with a notebook and pencil for writing sums. Jack has his calculator in his room and plays with it while he’s drifting off to sleep.

Hands-on math activities for preschoolers Hands-on math activities for preschoolersSo this is where we are at the moment; keeping it simple and going at Jack’s pace.

19 Replies to “Math Explorations”

  1. Love that mirror board.

  2. Your loose part materials are so great and versatile. It has made me rethink how things can be used, and even not have particular purposes in mind. I am now freely letting the kids play with some of my crafting supplies (little wooden blocks, glass tiles etc) and loving what they are doing with them

    1. That’s what I love so much about loose parts, that you can play with no purpose in mind, just play. We often have loose parts out and Jack and Sarah will just incorporate them into their play. No activities necessary, just beautiful materials.

  3. JJ’s started showing some interest in numbers lately, so this post is great timing for us! Lots of great ideas 🙂

  4. I love math stones, what a gorgeous idea rather than boring pen to paper math

  5. Oh my husband is not happy with this blog post. I already have a list of resources for school as long as my arm. Now that I have seen this post I have added a few more to the list. I love hands on learning like this!!!!!

  6. Love how simple items can be so great for learning. They don’t have to cost much either. They can simply be found outside.

  7. Our kmart didn’t have the cedar rings 🙁 Only cedar balls… will keep my eye out for something similar as I love the idea of counting on and off 🙂 Thanks for another wonderful post!

    1. I can get you some if you like Bek 🙂

  8. This is really interesting, thanks Kate. I have never thought about strategies for helping kids to understand adding and subtracting numbers.

  9. Lovely. I would just love some of your small parts. You’ve inspired me to go on the hunt again! I want to use some new materials. Thanks for sharing your thoughtful piece with gorgeous photos 🙂

  10. Some lovely ideas here Kate…do so love your creativity with learning concepts. You could possibly even get me interested in maths and that is no mean feat!!x

  11. Such beautiful gentle ways for learning as always. Just lovely.

  12. Kate, you continue to inspire me. This post has made me realise that I don’t really spend time with Cam discussing Maths concepts. Ooops! Must get our heads out of our books 🙂

  13. I love all these simple, natural materials and how you’ve used them in different ways. Awesome score on those cedar rings from K-mart too!

  14. This is a gorgeous post with so many exciting and accessible activities to try! I will definitely be sharing this with our readers today, they will love it!
    It sure does bring awareness to the fact that you can make numbers and calculations easy to understand and fun to engage with.

  15. HI Kate. Your activities are wonderful and so inspiring! I can’t wait to try this with my son. I just connected with you on all your sites. Can’t wait to read through more of your blog for inspiration.

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