Your kindergartner will build on all the basic math skills she learned in preschool — identifying shapes, recognizing patterns, counting, and grouping by category. This year she’ll be expected to take them to the next level (counting to 20 or higher, for example, or drawing and cutting out shapes to form pictures). Forget the flashcards and number drills; if you want your child to love numbers, show her how math is part of everyday life and she’ll be eager to learn more.
Here are 12 fun ways to introduce your child to the world of math. Because children learn in different ways, they’re arranged by learning style.
For the visual learner
Go on a number safari. When you’re driving around town, have your child look for numbers in street and store signs, and license plates. Call out the numbers as you find them. Being able to recognize numbers up to 20 is an important skill at this age.
Connect the dots. This old standby will help your child recognize number sequencing. Bookstores are full of coloring books with connect the dot themes (and don’t worry if your child only wants a Hello Kitty or Pokémon theme — it’s all about the numbers right now).
Make a phone call. Write the phone number of a friend or relative down on a piece of paper. Have your child dial the number to give her practice reading numbers left to right.
Estimate the weight of a household object. Ask your child to guess the weight of the family cat, a dictionary, a glass of water. Then show her how to use a scale to find out the real weight. Have her estimate her own weight, and that of other family members. While her guesses may be way off, you’re introducing her to the concepts of weight and estimating.
Play pattern games. For example, give your child green and purple grapes. Have her arrange them in different patterns: purple, green, purple, green. Or green, green, purple, green, green. Look for patterns in nature: rings on a caterpillar, things that come in pairs — eyes, ears, hands. This activity will develop your child’s problem-solving skills and her abstract thinking.
For the physical learner
Count and sort household items. Mix up the knives, forks, and spoons from the silverware drawer and have your child group them by type and count how many are in each group. Do the same with your sock drawer (by color, by size), your child’s stuffed animal collection (group the animals by big and small; put all the bears together). Have your child help you fold and sort laundry. How many socks are there? How many T-shirts? Have her divide them into groups.
Go on a shape search around the house. Look for squares, triangles, circles, stars — any kind of shape. Have your child draw and cut different shapes out of construction paper.
Play with shape puzzles and blocks. Manipulating three-dimensional objects — playing with a shape-sorter box, for example — will introduce your child to basic geometry as well as help develop her fine motor skills and spatial reasoning. Moving two-dimensional shapes such as tangrams (a set of geometric pieces that can be arranged to form pictures) helps with spatial reasoning as well.
Make a counting book. This activity has a reading and a math component: Have your child go through an old catalog or magazine and cut out all the items that start with the letter “A” and paste them onto a piece of construction paper. When you’ve gone through the list, count all the pictures on each page.
Make a game out of snack time. For example, give your child a handful of goldfish crackers, and draw a picture of a fishbowl on a piece of white paper. Put the fish in the fishbowl and have your child count them. Take one out, and count again. Although basic addition and subtraction aren’t usually introduced until 1st grade, you can lay the groundwork now.
Make up dice or card games. You can introduce the concepts of greater than and less than with these classic game pieces. Roll a pair of dice. Ask your child which number is greater than the other — she’ll soon recognize the dot groupings by sight: five dots equals the number 5, etc. Or play War with a deck of cards. Because the higher card number wins the hand, your child will quickly learn to distinguish between the numbers.
For the auditory learner
Listen to counting rhymes and songs. “Three little monkeys jumping on the bed; one fell off and bumped his head. Mama called the doctor and the doctor said, ‘No more monkeys jumping on the bed!’ Two little monkeys jumping on the bed…” Any variation on this counting rhyme introduces basic subtraction. Look for children’s games and music activity tapes such as the Wee Sing series that features songs about numbers.
Make a recipe with your child. Give your child the measuring cups and bowls and let her measure out the ingredients while you read the directions out loud. An easy — and delicious — way to introduce concepts such as volume, weight, and even fractions.