by Lindsay W. Brown
June 24, 2010
As adults we use numbers every day, whether it’s balancing our checkbook or deciding how many cups of flour we need for a recipe. Few of us remember how we learned those basic number skills but would agree that we couldn’t live without them.
According to Pam Leffers, Director of Programs for Early Childhood Alliance, “even though ‘learning your ABCs’ may get more attention, number sense is a very important skill for young children.” In fact, the DeKalb County Learning Link early childhood team has set a goal that all children in DeKalb County will be able to “count ten objects” and “recognize numbers 0-10” when they enter kindergarten. Leffers continues, “believe it or not, starting school with this basic skill helps your children become better readers and writers early in their schooling.”
Just as children can sing the ABC song , most of us have seen children who take a deep breath and count to 100, but have little idea what the numbers mean. Leffers states, “the ability to recite numbers is a memory task, but children must also learn that numbers are used to count objects, and that each group of objects can be represented by a symbol.”
There are so many opportunities in the home and through everyday routines to experience numbers. In fact, using counting to solve everyday problems is much more meaningful for children than sitting down with flash cards.
Most children are eager to use counting skills for fun and will take any collection of objects to practice, such as pennies, buttons or marbles. Adding an egg carton or muffin tin will challenge a child to put one object in each cup, which further supports number sense.
Most of us have watched children counting objects and skipping one or counting something twice. This is a normal part of the learning process. As children approach kindergarten, however, they begin to understand that each object is only counted once and that each is associated with a specific number name.
Early Childhood Alliance offers the following easy ideas for encouraging your child’s number sense:
- While shopping, ask your child to help you fill the cart. For example, ask for “three cans of green beans” or “five apples”. Make a shopping list that includes the numerals 1-10 and ask your child to help you “read” the list.
- Go on a number hunt around the house. Computer keyboards, remote controls, newspapers, microwaves, and telephones, all examples of everyday objects with numbers.
- Ask your child to help you set the table, letting them know how many people to include. Remind them that every person will need a plate, cup, and silverware.
- Play simple board games with your child that require counting spaces to advance.
- Count off the number of days to a special event or vacation by making a paper chain. Ask the child to remove one chain every day and count the number of days remaining. You can also write the appropriate numeral on each chain.
DeKalb County public libraries have a vast collection of children’s books about counting you can use; and if you have questions, librarians in the children’s departments love to help you sort out the right books for your child’s age and development. It’s important for your child to see you using numbers in everyday life whether it’s following a recipe or measuring the length of a room. Finally, make sure to keep learning fun so that your child enters kindergarten eager for the next step in the world of numbers.
For more information about Learning Link, an initiative of the DeKalb County Community Foundation, or a four-page booklet of low- and no-cost learning resources available in DeKalb County, go to www.dekalblearninglink.org and click on ‘Community and Parent Resources’, then ‘Early Childhood’, or call Judy Sorg at the DeKalb County Community Foundation, 260-925-0311 or e-mail Jsorg@dekalbfoundation.org.