Do you want your little ones to excel in math?! I definitely do. Building number sense as a toddler is crucial to a child’s ability to be successful at math. Did you know toddlers can solve word problems? As they begin to learn about the world around them, it is important to begin asking them real-world problems even at an early age like 2 and 3 years old. The more they are exposed to these problems, the more likely they will understand numbers sooner and more efficiently. Building number sense in toddlers can be fun too!
What is number sense?
Jenni Way at NRICH- Enriching Mathematics says “the term ‘number sense’ is a relatively new one in mathematics education.” In terms we as parents can understand, it is the ability to understand numbers and the relationship between numbers to solve mathematical problems in a way other than traditional algorithms.
This means the ability to solve a problem like 435 + 549 = ? without using the standard algorithm of putting them top to bottom like this and regrouping:
We want our kids to understand numbers so well that they can solve a mathematics problem without doing the standard algorithm or using a calculator. This will help them in the future to understand real-world situations with money like buying a house and saving for college later on.
Why not start learning about the relationship between numbers as young as 2 years old?!? As parents, we need to expose our children over and over to numbers and numbers and more numbers. The more they work with numbers and counting, the more successful they will be at math.
How do we build number sense?
Below are the top strategies and activities I have used in my home to build number sense with my own toddlers:
- Counting Everything – This may seem basic, but this is so true. As young as one year old, I taught my children how to count. At first, simple counting in your head. Then as they approached two years old, we began to learn that numbers have a concrete meaning. We began to count our cheerios at the breakfast table and our raisins at snack time. We counted our steps to the bathroom and our hops around the room. They have to learn that counting involves concrete objects.
- Moving Objects as We Count Them – I believe it is important to teach children to move objects over as you count them. Let’s say we are counting three M & M’s; as we count them I show “Suzie” how to move them over to a new pile as we count. This helps her to make less errors in counting. Obviously everything cannot be moved over, like dot cards or something in a book; but this still gives them the ability to understand that numbers have a concrete meaning. Later on, you can teach them to put them in rows and columns as they count. I would say this would be beneficial for a 4 or 5 year old.
- Reading Books with Numbers and Counting – My kids LOVE books, so we integrate math into our reading time. Even if the book is not a counting book, we will count the apples or the mice in the book to practice our counting skills. The more we count, the more they will learn about numbers.
- Using an Abacus – An abacus is awesome for counting or for story problems with toddlers. This also helps with colors and patterns, which toddlers need to learn as well. This is great for the hands-on and visual learners.
- Solving Story Problems with Noodles & More – In our homeschool classroom, we use rigatoni noodles, to solve simple word problems. We use play-doh and straws with noodles to count as well.
- Solve Simple Word Problems – My FAVORITE! I give my preschoolers problems to solve daily. We do this in our homeschool classroom, but also at the dinner table or while we are getting dressed. I have learned that once I started doing these problems more, my preschoolers were making up their own problems and solving them. Yes, REALLY!!! It just AMAZES me how much they can do at such a young age if you just work with them. My kids love using teddy bars like these to solve problems:
You can download this freebie, Story Problems for Toddlers, to start working on those story problems today!
Building number sense is not hard to do. Spend some extra time with your children counting and counting some more! I believe that is the most important in building the foundation for them to understand the relationships among numbers. Purchase a few books with counting and read them over and over again. Repetition is essential in learning how to count and build number sense. Finally, purchase an abacus or get you some pipe cleaners and rigatoni noodles to solve those word problems and encourage your toddlers to make up their own. 🙂
How are your toddlers doing with building number sense? Do you have any other activities or ideas you would like to share with others. Comment below! I would love to hear from you! God Bless!
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