Fun with Math

From sorting objects to counting to 20, math is no doubt an important skill to have. Here are some ways to get your preschooler interested in the world of math.

WORDS SUE-ANN BAUMGÄRTEL

 

For a curious yet energetic preschooler, games that involve learning by doing and ending with a sense of achievement can be hugely rewarding for both parent and child. 

 

Shapes and symmetry

  • Fold an A4 sheet of card into eighths, and draw a shape on each fold, keeping the fold as the line of symmetry. You will need six shapes – a square, a circle, a triangle, a diamond, a heart and a rectangle. Colour each shape in a different colour and cut the card into eight “cards”. Let your child puzzle the shapes together.
  • The same idea of matching up symmetrical shapes can be used on ice cream sticks. Using a marker pen, draw a shape over a pair of ice cream sticks, and let your child find the matching shapes. Matching shapes and symmetrical patterns can also be practiced through Snap! Cards. Keeping it simple, draw up to ten matching pairs of shapes on small cards, and use them in a game of Snap!
  • Button Board – using a glue gun, stick some buttons on a flat surface, like a wooden board or a plastic tray. Choose buttons of varying sizes and colours. Once dried, get your child to make shapes with a rubber band, by hooking it round different groupings of buttons.

 

Order and grouping

  • Draw or print out different math concepts – numbers and shapes – on small cards. For example, make five copies of the number four or five copies of a square. Cut a slot into old cornflake boxes, cardboard boxes or clean milk cartons, and stick a matching picture of the number four or a square on it. Let your child “post” the correct card into the matching box. As your child gets more confident in this game, you can vary it by using different containers, such as baskets or bowls, and arranging them around your living room or outdoor area. The cards can be brought to the next level by varying the font of the number, and using a literal representation of the number itself. For example, the number five can also be represented by a card with five dots, five apples, or five bees. 
  • Building bricks is great for developing spatial awareness. Build the tallest tower you can using a repeated pattern of coloured bricks – such as red, yellow, green – and see how high you can go without the tower tumbling. Build towers of different heights and get your child to place them in order of smallest to tallest, and vice versa.

 

Numbers

  • Card games are great for learning numbers. Having a pack of cards or UNO handy can be a lifesaver while waiting for lunch, for example. Does your child like cereal but hates to sit down for breakfast? Set out some cards – from one to five – and get your child to put the correct number of Cheerios on each card.
  • Learning numbers while jumping about? This is a win-win situation. Hopscotch is great for learning numbers, especially numbers going backwards. Number leapfrog involves lily pads with numbers written on them. Draw bold numbers on a green card and cut them out in the shape of a lily pad. Glue them onto a big sheet of blue paper and get your kids to hop onto different numbers on your call. You can develop this game further, to suit your child’s abilities. If your child is already able to add single digit numbers, give him a sum to jump on. Push your child more by getting his mind to work faster in order to jump quicker.
  • Math games can be useful in whiling away the time during traffic jams. If your child is happy counting to 20 and beyond, instruct him to start at one and to substitute numbers with a 2 in it with a silly word like “buzz” or “Sausages!” For example, “1, buzz, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, buzz…” Then try working this backwards. This is great for a group of kids, and works well with times tables for school children.
  • Being confident with numbers is an invaluable skill, especially when it comes to money. Playing with money is a way of learning how to deal with it. Give your child a selection of coins to sort out – you can always clean the coins first. They can sort them out into groups of one dollar, ten cents etc.

 

 

If you feel your child is capable of applying this skill of recognising money,

let them help with the supermarket shopping. Tell them to find

something for $5 by looking at the prices on the shelves.

 

               

  • Cooking and in particular baking is full of numbers. Cooking requires planning skills, as well as numerical skills, and baking is a fun way of working with fractions. A simple pound cake is a great starting point for any mathematician in the kitchen. Weigh out four eggs, and using that same weight measurement, weigh out the same amount each of flour, sugar and butter. Let your child decide if they need more or less of each ingredient while measuring it out. Cream the butter and sugar together until soft, and then add in the eggs and the flour. Add a pinch of salt and a teaspoon of baking powder. Add some milk if the mixture is too thick. Bake for 30-40 minutes at 180°C or until a skewer comes out clean from the middle of the cake.
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