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Teaching young children Maths skills using activities and games | ParentEdge


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The Numbers Magician: Teaching Children Math Skills, Part 1

Math is one subject we cannot distance ourselves from – whether we make a career out of it or not, Math is an essential part of life. Math is more than just mastery over basic number functions. It is not all about + – x and divide. It is about understanding how numbers ‘fit’ into our day to day lives and the environment around us.

Does an early schooler notice car number plates and their function? Does she recognise the changes that an added family member brings into the home? Does she notice the change in weight before and after eating? Or how one apple relates to a bean, or a pencil in terms of volume and weight? I wasn’t fortunate enough to get that understanding of math until the time I learnt a new approach to Math.

This article is inspired by the teaching at my daughter’s school – Great Hearts Archway. I thank them for introducing these concepts to me. They follow Singapore Math as their module for teaching Mathematics.

In Singapore math, they focus on laying a strong foundation of Math concepts. The chart you see below is called a ‘Ten’s Frame’. In a Ten’s frame, there are 2 rows of 5 blocks and rows are filled with varying number of black dots. One block has one big black dot. Children are taught to understand how many dots are there without counting on their fingers.

E.g. in Fig. 1 kids are taught to see that all 5 blocks on top are filled; which makes 5 + one block at the bottom which makes 1. Hence, 6 blocks out of 10 are filled and 4 are empty. They are also taught to approach this problem in multiple ways. One could see it as 6 filled out of ten or 4 less than 10 or as times 5, where each row is seen as a multiple of 5.

Figure 1

Fig. 1


In Fig. 2, there are 3 dots filled out of 5 at the top. Remember that always, the blocks on the top are filled FIRST before filling blocks in the bottom. However, kids are challenged to think in different ways to fill 3 in blocks of ten. So the teacher will typically discuss how the same 3 dots could be placed in any of 10 blocks below.

Figure 2

Fig. 2



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Rima's has a Master's Degree in Psychology from Mumbai, and is a certified Childcare Professional and Life Coach from USA. She has written numerous articles for parents and women in Tanzania, India, and in USA. Her work includes writing for airline magazines and editing internationally published books. She has extensive experience in training teachers and parents and working with children aged 2-7 years. Her parenting page can be accessed at Parenting Booth , and her personal blog here.

4 thoughts on “The Numbers Magician: Teaching Children Math Skills, Part 1

  1. Kritika Srinivasan

    Thanks Rima. These are indeed interesting ways in which to introduce numeracy skills to the little ones. We had an article on this topic a year or two ago, and here are some of the tips we presented in it:
    – Shape recognition: Use everyday objects to teach her about shapes—chapattis and peas are circular, while bread can be cut into triangles, rectangles and squares. Doors and windows, plates and party hats. This also helps the child associate certain shapes with specific objects, for instance, wheels are always circular.
    – Teach size by asking her to compare. Point to the vehicles and ask your child if the car on your left or the one to your right is bigger. Encourage your child to use words like big, bigger and biggest.
    – Numbers and counting: Look for numbers everywhere and point them out to your child so she can recognise them at first, and then gradually begin to understand the relationship between numbers. Incorporate numbers through games, and as a part of all the daily interactions.
    – Count everyday things: steps, chocolates, books on a shelf. Counting the number of steps taken to reach a destination, the number of flowers, the amount of change to be returned while shopping – these are some other ways to introduce numbers, and later, simple addition and subtraction.
    – Incorporate numbers in everyday conversation. Ask your child to pick out three t-shirts from her cupboard.
    – Play board games, especially those that use dice and game pieces to progress.
    – Number rhymes
    – Use flash cards to reinforce learning and encourage visual learning and recognition.


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