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Math Activities

Dear Debi,
I have a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old. I heard that the importance placed on learning and enjoying math concepts begins at home. Could you recommend some math activities for my children that are fun and family-focused? !
Alexandra Maldonado
Debi's Tips
Debi Gutierrez
Debi Gutierrez
  • Math is about sorting, measurement, patterns & problem-solving
  • Use everyday activities to integrate math
  • Ask math-related questions
  • Make math fun
Expert Advice
Moisés Román
Moisés Román
UCLA Early Care and Education
Math concepts include counting, one-to-one correspondence – which means that the number represents a quantity – and sorting by size, shape, and color. Remember, because you are your child’s first teacher, children will learn these math concepts first in your home. You have opportunities at home during all your daily routines to introduce math concepts.

Alexandra should make sure that she maintains that math is fun. Math opportunities are everywhere and you just have to make an intentional effort to point them out. It can be as simple as pointing out different-sized objects. Meal times are a great opportunity to point out math. For instance, you can say, “Take 2 scoops of something, take 1 piece of this, etc.” Math is more than just about counting. It’s all around us in things such as finding patterns and solving problems.

For younger children, such as Alexandra’s two-year-old, math concepts should begin with things that are tangible and easy to hold. For a child that age, they should begin contrasting objects – differentiating between big and little, long and short. You can also introduce simple number concepts, like counting from 1 to 3.

For older children, such as Alexandra’s four-year-old, it’s important to work on more complicated number concepts, like one-to-one correspondence, sorting from one extreme attribute to the other extreme attribute – for example, from largest to smallest. Geometric concepts should also be introduced, such as shapes.

Adults sometimes feel intimidated about math because they didn’t have people to help nurture their own difficulties with math when they were young. Children feed off the energy that adults put into any kind of learning. If an adult is uncomfortable with math and they project their anxieties about math, children will pick up on it. Children’s attitudes start with you.

There are also misconceptions about what math is. For young children, the concepts are very simple but they’re still math. It’s important that when you ask children questions, that it leads to an answer. You should guide them to the answer, so in that way it’s open-ended. Remember, it’s not the product, but the process. The answer isn’t the important part – it’s how the child is getting to the answer.
Child Care Provider Comments
Letycia Gomez
Letycia Gomez
Mother of Two
I think that it is very important to begin teaching math in the home. I used to have a home based business and my kids would help me count the inventory. They would help me fold and sort clothes. We recently gave stuff to Goodwill. My older son counted and helped my husband and I with the list. The 3-year-old is learning to count. We talk through everything, such as counting the steps while we are walking. Anything she has in her hands, we ask, “How many do you have in your hand?”
Carri Bryant
Carri Bryant
Cares for her two great-grandchildren
One of the easiest things to use to teach math is dice – big dice with dots on each side. Children can just roll them and count the dots. I like to make up simple games with dice. One game is called “Traveling” – the dots determine how many steps you can move. Whoever rolls the highest number gets to go first. We have a goal like a tree – whoever gets to the tree first wins.
Beth Collier
Beth Collier
Child care provider for 22 years and mother of three
Alexandra is absolutely right that a child’s attitude towards learning comes from the home environment. It should be fun and family-focused. It should not be anything like flash cards or testing or anything the child doesn’t enjoy. One great way to incorporate math is to cook with children. It involves measuring, counting numbers of cup; you can even turn the oven to 300 degrees to talk about numbers. Almost anything can become a math activity. It is the exposure and the fun that a parent brings to it. That is the key.

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Math Activities
Topic: Early Learning Areas
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