In my article yesterday from Home School Enrichment, “Literal Math for Little Minds,” the follow-up to the previous “Too Young for Math?: The How and Why of Early Math Education,” I discuss in greater detail the necessity of literal math for young children.
The key for the home educator is to lay aside the workbooks and teach young ones the reality of math principles in their own environment.
From my archives, here is a sample list of suggestions to get you started thinking “outside the workbook.” This is not intended to be an exhaustive list of must-do’s or an assignment list for well-trained mathematicians. But perhaps the list will get you started playing with math in your house, too!
~ Point out shapes in household objects (circle plates, rectangle tables, etc.). Draw items based on similar shapes.
~ Count how many shoes are in the house, lining them up single file. Then, place them in pairs and count them by twos. Finally, put them all away in their proper room, and count them in each room.
~ Skip count up and down the side-walk. Count with your child by single digits for toddlers; older children can count by 2’s, 5’s, 7’s, 4’s … any number!
~ Read the calendar regularly, counting how many days remain until a special event. Point out the month, the day of the week, and the date.
~ Point to the clock (a “real clock” with hands and a face) and announce the time to the nearest hour before every meal for a week. The next week, ask the youngest member of the family to tell the time for each meal. Soon, use the words “midnight” and “noon” and “am” and “pm” in your time-telling.
~ Count how many canned goods are in the pantry. Sort them by picture; count how many of each kind are sorted. Create a physical graph by stacking the cans on the kitchen floor to compare the quantities.
~ Place a pile of raisins in front of a toddler. Count them. Allow him to eat only one. Guess how many are left. Count them again. Repeat until everyone is full of raisins.
~ Spend an entire morning baking a batch of cookies. Allow the preschooler to measure each quantity himself, discovering which measurements are “more” and which are “less.” Repeat often, with different recipes, so the child becomes familiar with the differences between a unit, a half unit, and a quarter unit.
~ At lunch time, cut out the sandwiches in front of the child. Briefly discuss the difference between a whole sandwich (big brother’s sandwich), a half sandwich (his), and a quarter sandwich (the baby’s).
~ Play board games which involve rolling a die. Patiently allow even the youngest players to learn to count how many dots are on the die and how many spaces their counter must move.
~ Sing counting songs like “Ten Little Indians.”
~ Allow preschoolers to pick “six oranges” or “three tomatoes” at the grocery store.
~ Give allowance in change, and make them count it out to you.
~ Take the children to the bank.
~ Take the children to the dollar store, and let them pay with their change allowance for their own purchases, remembering to calculate tax.
~ Buy lots of rulers at the Dollar Store. Allow your child to measure everything to his heart’s content. Familiarize him with both inches and centimeters.
~ While standing in line, announce loudly, “We are Fourth in line!” Then, when the line moves, announce, “See? Now we are Third in line!” Continue moving down the ordinal positions until “We are First in line!” Your child will be pleased, and the checker is sure to hurry the line along.
~ Count horses in a field, really fast, while driving down the highway.
~ Older children can calculate how fast Mom is driving by noting how long it takes to pass a mile marker on the highway.
~ Wonder aloud math problems you don’t know (like “I wonder what how fast that shooting star falls and how a scientist would calculate it?”) and muse aloud possible answers. Let your children hear you theorize.
~ Count how long you can juggle, hold your breath, stand on your head … any contest!
~ Teach your 5- or 6-year-old to keep score for the family game time by keeping tally marks.
~ Play dominoes.