Have a preschooler kid or two? Millennial parents seems to be really into anything early-learning nowadays. Two things they’re so eager to stimulate their children are usually these; reading and counting. Now let’s talk about how to teach preschoolers numbers.
Many thought that counting simply means the child is able to say numbers in the correct order, from 1 to 10 as a start. Some other thought, “My child can recognize the numbers 1 to 20, now what? Can I introduce her to 1+2 already?”
Well, apparently there are different stages of kids’ ability to count numbers. When a child can sing “one two three four five” it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re able to tell which one is number one, two, or three.
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In this article:
Three Phases of Counting
I have been reading some articles from an educational website, homeschooling mom’s blogs, or kids activities blog, and found this interesting stages of how a child learned to count.
There are at least three phases of counting that children will learn. These concepts are the basic to prepare them the foundation for the next higher math; addition and substraction.
- Rote counting; counting in order, to say the numbers in sequence.
- Number recognition.
- Concept of quantity, with one-to-one correspondence: numerals with number of real objects.
Counting in Order. A.k.a Rote Counting
When you heard a child counting “one, two, three, four, five”, that is what people called rote counting. It basically means counting numbers sequentially.
The simplest form of counting, usually this is the first math skill a child learned. They might even started rote counting even though you never intentionally taught them!
Show them how to count their fingers, by counting out loud one by one
Listening or watching nursery rhymes about numbers and counting.
Among some favorites counting rhymes are (linked to their YouTube videos correspondingly):
Start with counting up, from one to ten. This is easier for your preschooler to master, before they can imitate the counting down.
This is the phase when your child learned that “1” is number one, “2” is two, and so on. It’s basically when they know the numerals. So now it’s more on what they see visually.
Again, usually we can start teaching them from 1 to 10.
Even when they watch the nursery songs about counting, they’ll most likely start recognising some of the numbers.
Number recognition can be learned in many activities in daily life. The main idea is, show them a number, and tell them what number that is.
Once they know certain numbers, you can play by asking them to mention the number they see, or find a number that you call out.
Number recognition is quite easy to play even while you’re on the go.
Some examples you can try are:
- by point-and-tell, showing them numbers on the house door, road sign, bus number, story book, magazine, etc. And you say it out what number it is. Then slowly ask them to try telling you the next number you show them.
- use any toys which has numbers on it. E.g. numbers playmat, number flash cards, or magnetic numbers set.
I made a simple number cards with paper and marker, and used them to learn number recognition like the one on the picture below, or to play number memory games like I did here
If you plan to get some flash cards, you might want to consider getting the sand paper number cards like this instead (or I believe you can also make your own).
The rough surface of the number is good for tracing exercise.
While memorising the number, you can ask your child to trace the number with their finger. This is another basic skill before they learn to write later on.
The magnetic numbers set is another favorite of ours. I love that I can use them for many ways, number recognition for my younger, and math equation for my eldest one. It includes some animal shaped counters as well to use for counting. Perfect for doing one-to-one correspondence counting too. I posted a close up look on my IG here.
One-to-one Correspondence, a.k.a Counting Real Objects
This is usually would come after they can do the rote counting (saying numbers in order), and they can recognize the written numbers.
Although sometimes you can introduce all three at one go in an activity (more on that below).
What is actually the one-to-one correspondence in early Maths?
This is how a child learned the concept of objects quantity.
A child might be able to say from 1 to 20 in the correct order, but unable to tell you how many candies you gave him, even if it’s only less than 10 candies.
So this is the stage when they learn that a number actually represents the “how many” of real objects around them.
Well yea I realised that last sentence is pretty much whatyatalkinabout Lol.
Perhaps some examples here might give you better idea.
So. How do you teach them one-to-one correspondence?
In simple terms, by showing them how to count out loud some objects in front of them, while pointing/touching each object as you count.
Ideally, it would be nice if you have the written number nearby (number card, or you can write it on a piece of paper), which showing how many objects you’re counting. So then your child will be able to see, for example, the three candies with the number 3.
“Ok ok… But how on earth do you teach them that?”
This is some basic ideas on number recognition.
- Choose a number and line up some objects in front of you. Think about blocks, toy cars, cherios, M&Ms etc.
- Start by you do the counting while they’re watching. Start from one, while touching the first item, and continue counting and touching, until you reach the number you’ve chosen at the beginning.
- Repeat with other number. Slowly you can ask them to count together with you.
- Watch if they understand when to stop counting once they touch the last object. Why this is important? Because during the rote counting phase, they’re more likely to get used to count to 10, every-single-time.
- Then once they get comfortable playing this, ask them to count without you.
Gradually, you can ask them to get you something in some countable amount.
“Can you pass me three crayons over there please?”
“Can I have five Cheerios please?”
You can count with them while they’re getting the items you’re asking.
Or you can play I-Spy; “Can you find four balls in this room?” “Do you see two black cars over there?”
Or play treasure hunt outdoor (which I did in this post), “Can you find three leaves? Two pink flowers?”
Read A Story Book
This is another favorite of mine, you can read to them while they can also learn about counting.
With a story book, they can do rote counting, they can learn number recognition, and they can also practice counting with one-to-one correspondence with the pictures in the book.
Some all-time favorite counting books you might want to check out;
- The Very Hungry Caterpillar – the famous counting book!
- Curious George's 1 to 10 and Back Again
- Count The Monkeys – and they never made it to actually count the Monkeys!
- Five Little Monkeys Jumping On the Bed
(Hmmm.. do you think I should make a children’s book list in a separate post? Counting books? Baby books? Let me know, I’d love to hear your suggestions!)
Remember to keep it simple and fun!
Nope, don’t expect they’ll stay to play your “math game” long enough, 15 minutes is a good achievement I would say. 😆
Just do it slowly, regularly, and incorporate it in your daily activities.
Which one do you do the most with you kids? Or have other favorite nursery songs or books you want to add?
Let me know in the comments below!