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IEL Tip Sheet: Path to Math: More Numbers About

Many 4-and 5-year-olds know that anything they count needs a “number name” (one car, two cars) and that numbers have a set order (1-2-3-4). They know that quantities change when they add or remove items. They often enjoy playing with number concepts. Here are some ways to help older preschool children learn more about numbers. (See Illinois Early Learning and Development Benchmarks 6.A.ECd Connect numbers to quantities they represent using physical models and informal representations., 6.B.ECb Show understanding of how to count out and construct sets of objects of a given number up to 5.View sample lesson plan, 6.B.ECd Informally solve simple mathematical problems presented in a meaningful context., and 6.D.ECa Compare two collections to see if they are equal or determine which is more, using a procedure of the child’s choice..)

Use the language of numbers.

  • Explain and use words like numeral, zero, skip-counting, countdown, pair, whole/part, many/few, half, subtract.
  • Help children ask and answer thought-provoking number questions: “We have 6 crackers and 3 children. How many can each of you have so it’s fair?” “Is it always best to have more of something instead of less?”

Make numbers part of the daily routine.

  • Help the class keep track of the days of school. They can take turns marking on a number line or putting a row of index cards up around the room, one for each day. Ask them to predict how long the row will be on the 100 th day of class.
  • Ask children to figure out how many cups and napkins to set out for snack.
  • Let children vote on classroom issues with more than two options. “Six people want to sing ‘BINGO’; 2 want ‘Mary Mack’; and 3 don’t want to sing at all!”

Provide games that involve numbers and counting.

  • Teach games such as lotto, bingo, dreidel, Hi-Ho-Cherrio, Pyramid Solitaire, Double (Addition) War.
  • Simplify Yahtzee, Sorry, Uno, or Monopoly Junior for young players.
  • Help small groups plan scavenger hunts: “Find 4 shiny rocks, 10 dandelions, and 5 acorns.”

Bring numbers into investigations and project work.

  • Help children create simple survey forms for polling classmates or families: “What color are your eyes?” “How many seeds are in your apple?”
  • Encourage children to separate a large group of items (such as pumpkin seeds) into sets of 10, then skip-count by 10s.

Offer other activities that promote working with numbers.

  • Encourage children to solve addition and subtraction word problems using blocks, integer rods, plastic animals, coins, etc.
  • Share books that involve numbers, counting, parts, and wholes.
  • Invite children to create their own games that use spinners or dice.
September 2013


For more ideas related to number and counting with young children, see the following Web resources:

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