Early counting, number recognition and number bonds to 10

I wanted to write this blog last week, but with a hospital stay at the beginning of the week with Isabel, and then a hospital stay at the end of the week with Charlie it’s been a bit manic here. Luckily they are both doing well now, it’s just that horrible time of year and they are both vulnerable for different reasons. Onwards and upwards as we say!
Megan has been really interested in numbers lately and we have been working lots on helping her to understand that a number represents a number of objects. In doing this we are also helping her to recognise the numbers, this can take a long time for children to understand and so repetition in lots of different ways really helps. Isabel has been learning number bonds to 10 at school and again this needs lots of repetition to help reinforce the knowledge. Some of the games I will post below will show how I can adapt a game for Megan to help with early counting, and Isabel for number bonds to 10, as busy mums and dads will know anything that will support all the children at the same time at their level and is fun is a bonus!

Game 1: Counting
It is so easy to integrate numbers into everyday life through counting. I have counted with the children since they were tiny babies. I used to count the poppers on their baby grows, their fingers and toes, the stairs as we climbed them, the number of nappies going into the changing bag. I counted forwards and backwards and it happens so naturally that they start to count with me as they begin to speak. Charlie has to take an inhaler every morning and night since he was a tiny baby, as he inhales the medicine we all count to 10. He now knows when we are getting close to 10 and is even starting to say some of the numbers. He doesn’t know what they mean yet but as he learns more about numbers this background experience will give him a basis to build the new knowledge. When we play hide and seek everyone gets a chance to be the counter, Isabel has to count to 20, or count in 2’s to 20, or in 10’s to 100. Megan counts to 10 so now we are encouraging her to count to 20 with help. So while it is not really a game as such I can’t stress the importance of counting at every opportunity.

What are they learning? Rote counting is the first step in understanding that a number represents a certain number of objects, they don’t know what it symbolises yet, but if they cannot rote count and know the number names in order they will not be able to count objects reliably later on.

Game 2: Number Hunt

My children love any game that involves hiding items and finding them so this one is popular. It is great as it can be played indoors and outside and needs very little resources. We have a number puzzle where you have to match numbers and objects. I took the numbers and placed them randomly around the floor, then on 10 different pieces of paper I wrote the numbers 1-10. Isabel hid the numbers around the house. Megan then had to find the numbers and match them to the numbers on the floor.

What are they learning? This helps children to discriminate between the different numerals, they need good visual skills when learning numbers as many of the numbers look very similar e.g. 1 and 7, 2 and 5, 6 and 9 so by matching the numbers that are the same is the first and important step in number recognition.

Game adaptation: Isabel is learning number bonds to 10, so when it was her turn to find the numbers she had to match the numbers that added up to 10. So for instance if she found 6 she would put it next to 4 to make 10. It was a great game and kept them busy for a while and they could both access it with their own appropriate level of challenge.

Game 3: Cooking

We love a bit of cooking here and I usually have a gang of helpers whenever I start to cook anything particularly if I’m baking. I encourage the children to help me measure the ingredients by putting in 3 spoons of flour, then 2 more spoons of flour. We even take away if we have added too much so take away 1 spoon of flour.

What are they learning? They are matching quantity to number so realising that number 3 is equal to 3 spoons of flour. They are also doing simple more and less and knowing that more will make the quantity bigger and less will make it smaller. It is introducing the more technical mathematical language in a fun activity.

Game 4: Helping to lay the table

Megan is keen to collect the bowls, spoons and cups for dinner. Initially I asked her to collect 1 cup, 2 spoons, 3 plates etc. Now she is able to do that instead of saying the number I show her a number and put it on the table and say I want this many cups. She is now confident to do this with numbers 1-3 and so we can now move onto the next few numbers.

What are they learning? Megan is learning to do 1-1 correspondence (matching a quantity to a number) she is also learning to recognise the numbers and match objects to a number.

Game 5: Collecting box

Using any type of box that has dividers (I use a plastic box that had a different toy in, but egg boxes work well) write a number in each of the sections and send the children off on a collection hunt. This is a great one for outdoors and children can collect twigs, leaves, pine cones, daisies etc in it. When Megan played it she wanted to collect beads. The only rule is that each section needs to be filled with the number of objects that matches the numeral e.g. 2 daisies, 3 leaves etc.

What are they learning? This is another 1-1 correspondence game and encourages number recognition too. They may need support to count the number of objects correctly as they may get distracted by wanting to collect as many objects as they can find!

Game adaptation: Isabel’s challenge was to put the correct number of objects in each section to make 10. So for example if her number was 3, she would need to find 7 objects to make 10.

Game 6: Duplo character towers

This popped up on my Facebook feed and I thought I would try it. You need a dice, 10 duplo blocks for each player and a duplo character each. The aim of the game is to race your character to the top of the tower first. Each player takes a turn to throw the dice, they then build a tower with that number and put their character on the top. The girls enjoyed it and there was a lot of mathematical thinking involved although it might have gone better if Charlie didn’t keep running in and taking the dice every time it was put down!!!!

What are they learning? Throwing the dice means they need to count the number of spots to find out the number they need. They then need to count the number of blocks so it matches that number. Isabel was able to use her number bonds to 10 to work out how many blocks she had left (without looking), how many more or less she had than Megan, and what she needed to get to win.

These basic maths concepts are essential to set the foundations for more advanced mathematical concepts. The earlier children are exposed to mathematical language and number activities the more comfortable they feel with these skills and are able to find out new concepts and challenges with an open mind. I have often heard people say things like ‘oh I’m rubbish at maths so my children probably will be too’. I understand how this feels because I have always had to work hard at Maths and I don’t have a lot of confidence when it comes to learning a new mathematical concept or a new way of doing something. However I don’t let this stop me and I keep going with it until I have worked it out and understood it. I want to install in my children from an early age that maths is fun, that maths is interesting and number problems are a good challenge. I want my children to be comfortable around numbers and have a positive attitude towards learning something new. Hopefully playing maths games in fun ways and having maths as an integral part of our lives will go a long way in supporting them.

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