Contributing Author: Marley Wertheimer
The foundation for all math skills lies with number sense, or the ability to understand the meaning of numbers and how they relate to one another. It is extremely important to develop a strong number sense for mental math and basic arithmetic. This will lead to foundational automaticity, which is critical in higher order math. So, how can you help foster a solid number sense in your child at a young age? Use what’s around you! Nearly everything you encounter can be a lesson in numbers. Here are 4 tips for great ways to build your child’s number sense.
1. In the Kitchen
There are countless concepts in math that are easily discovered in the kitchen. Encourage your child to complete a fridge inventory by counting what they find aloud. The kitchen also helps students understand the difficult concept of fractions. Cooking and baking provide ample opportunities to learn measurements, amounts of ingredients, and basic arithmetic when combining items in a recipe. Have them help make dinner to work with fractions and measurements. The kitchen is full of math!
2. On the Go
Whether it be a road trip or a routine pick up from school, the car is an excellent place to play with numbers. Students can search for patterns and numerals in license plates, street signs, and billboards. You can also include lessons in categorization, classification, and comparison by counting cars of different colors as they pass. On the bus or train, students can count the people getting off the train or the number of stops before home.
3. Counting Change
If you keep a change jar or piggy bank at home, your child can help organize it and learn how to count change in the process! Make rolls of pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters in order to learn counting and skip counting by 5s, 10s, and 25s. Take it one step further by allowing your child to count out exact amounts of change at the grocery store. This will help create real world connections and foster a sense of responsibility during errands.
4. Calendars, Clocks, Books, you name it!
You don’t have to wait until kindergarten for your child to begin building number sense. Counting hours, minutes, and seconds on digital and analog clocks is an opportunity for children to develop math skills in a real-world context. Calendars can be used to count down the days until an upcoming event, such as a birthday or favorite holiday. Represent the days and months with items like popsicle sticks or straws. These items give your child a tangible tool to represent numbers.
Some great books with a number sense theme include Monster Math by Ann Miranda and A Three Hat Day by Laura Geringer. Any book can be turned into a lesson on numbers by motivating your child to count colors, people, or animals out loud with you.
As you can see, everyday life presents many opportunities to help your child develop number sense skills. Have fun, be creative, and support your student in becoming a confident mathematician!
Marley Wertheimer currently teaches World Cultures at a Silver Oak High School – a Public Charter Montessori in the Bay Area. For undergrad, Marley attended Connecticut College where she studied Psych-based Human Relations and German studies. She earned her multiple subjects teaching credential at Cal State, East Bay in 2011. In 2015, she added her Montessori Secondary I&II Credential through the American Montessori Society. Then, in 2016, Marley completed her Masters of Education at Taft University. Her ongoing love of learning and sharing best practices with fellow educators continues. Marley is particularly passionate about social justice, engaging all types of learners, and fostering a welcoming classroom environment for students and families alike.