Preschool quantity actions

Preschool quantity actions usually contain counting, however counting alone – naming numbers in the correct order – isn’t sufficient. Youngsters additionally must develop “quantity sense,” an intuitive feeling for the precise quantity related to a given quantity. The place does quantity sense come from, and what can we do to ensure youngsters actually be taught the idea of quantity?

Turning a tea party into a preschool number activity: three soft toys - a fox, bird, and hedgehog, served with plates cups and treats
Picture by Parenting Science

Experiments counsel that even 6-month-old infants can inform the distinction between 4 cookies and eight. And 14-month-old infants appear to know that counting tells us one thing about amount (Wang and Feigenson 2019). In order that’s a begin. What’s wanted — as youngsters grow old — are hands-on experiences.

When ought to we start educating kids about numbers?

It’s attainable to start out as quickly as your youngster has developed the power to be taught a string of phrases, but it surely’s essential to know that the method is gradual.

For instance, in the US, youngsters usually start to apply verbal counting across the age of two. However they’ll want plenty of apply to keep away from making errors (equivalent to skipping a quantity, or getting the order mistaken). And these early learners don’t actually perceive the that means of quantity phrases.

When does this understanding lastly come collectively? It normally takes a yr or two after they start collaborating in quantity actions. By way of repeated publicity and apply, they step by step be taught what actual portions are indicated by the phrases “one,” “two,” “three,” and “4.” Then – finally — they determine they will use counting to find out the numerosity of any set (Wynne 1990; LeCorre and Carey 2007; Carey and Barner 2019).

How can we assist youngsters find out about numbers?

Analysis is fairly compelling on this level: Youngsters profit once we actively educate them – introduce them to the ideas and terminology, and provides them loads of alternatives to work with numbers.

The next evidence-based quantity actions encourage youngsters to consider a number of key ideas, together with

  • The secure order precept (quantity phrases have to be recited in the identical order)
  • The precept of accelerating magnitudes (as we depend increased, the numbers characterize higher numerosities)
  • The one-to-one precept of numerosity (two units are equal if and provided that their gadgets may be positioned in excellent, one-to-one correspondence)
  • The one-to-one precept of object counting (every merchandise is to be counted is counted as soon as and solely as soon as)
  • The cardinal precept (the final phrase counted represents the numerosity of the set)

Additionally they give kids apply naming numbers – recognizing the verbal labels, and connecting them with the proper, symbolic (Arabic) numerals.

As your youngster engages in these preschool quantity actions, bear in mind this recommendation (from my information to preschool math classes):

  • Begin small. It’s essential to regulate the sport to your youngster’s consideration span and developmental stage. For freshmen, this implies counting duties that target very small numbers (as much as 3 or 4).
  • Be certain it’s enjoyable. If it’s not playful and enjoyable, it’s time to cease.
  • Be affected person. It takes younger kids a few yr to learn the way the counting system works.

Proof-based preschool quantity actions

Your youngster’s first counting actions

As famous above, most youngsters are prepared to start verbal counting by the age of two, and one basic strategy is to recite collectively – in unison – for enjoyable.

However there are additionally methods to include counting into video games. For instance, researchers counsel you can play “Cover and Search,” the place gamers should be taught to attend for a depend earlier than starting a search. “One…two…three…right here I come!” (Levenson et al 2022). Different concepts for combining counting with play embody:

  • a dancing recreation, the place gamers should freeze till somebody has completed a quick depend;
  • strolling up a stair case, whereas counting every step
  • transferring ahead in a room, or open air, whereas counting every step

Your youngster gained’t essentially be taught what portions are related to every quantity. However they are going to be studying the secure order precept – that there’s an accurate sequence to comply with. And verbal counting will pave the best way for deeper classes.

Image book-based actions for educating youngsters about utilizing counting to find out the quantity in a set

I discussed above that kids finally make a breakthrough of understanding: They understand that they will use counting to find out the precise amount of any set. For instance, when you ask them to pick precisely 6 toys from a field, they’ll be capable of do it. “Oh…I simply must maintain accumulating toys till I’ve attain a depend of six.” They’ve found out the cardinal precept.

However this breakthrough doesn’t simply occur. Research counsel that it relies upon, partly, on kids first gaining a concrete feeling for the quantities specified by “one,” “two,” “three,” and “4,” and being proven how we are able to use counting to test.  And a staff of researchers – lead by Kelly Combine – have give you an fascinating strategy that folks can use at residence when they’re studying to their preschoolers.

It really works like this. Suppose you’re studying a storybook together with your youngster, and also you come throughout three bears. Name consideration to the variety of bears you see, after which information your youngster by means of a depend of them. “Look, I see three bears! Are you able to say it with me? Three bears. Let’s depend: One, two, three.”

Subsequent, ask your youngster to repeat the method on his or her personal. “Now it’s your flip. What number of bears are there?”

Encourage your youngster to carry out each components of the quantity activity – counting the bears once more, and labeling the entire quantity within the set. Right here’s the suggestions you possibly can present to ensure this occurs:

  • In case your youngster merely says that there are three bears, however doesn’t depend them, say, “Proper! There are three bears. Are you able to depend them?”
  • In case your youngster appropriately labels the entire variety of bears, however makes an error whereas counting, say “Proper! There are three bears, however watch: 1, 2, 3.”
  • In case your youngster counts the bears appropriately, however fails to label the set, say: “Proper! 1, 2, 3…So, what number of are there?”

Kelley Combine and her colleagues examined this strategy in a randomized experiment on kids who have been 3 ½ years previous, together with some various strategies – like merely asking youngsters to depend objects (e.g., “Let’s depend the bears!”) or just telling youngsters about amount (“Look! This web page has three bears. Are you able to say it with me? Three bears…).

After 3 weeks of every day coaching, the youngsters who had been randomly assigned to the mix strategy (label first, then depend, and ask youngsters to do the identical) made important good points of their skill to know and depend units bigger than 5. The truth is, they have been the solely youngsters who skilled important enhancements. The researchers conclude that kids made progress in understanding the cardinal precept (Combine et al 2012).

Preschool quantity actions for educating the one-to-one precept of numerosity

Matching gadgets one-to-one is a surprisingly essential mathematical idea. It’s how we show that two portions are equal. Two units include the identical variety of gadgets if the gadgets in every set may be matched, one-to-one, with no gadgets left over. Researchers name this the “one-to-one precept of numerosity,” and you’ll assist youngsters grasp the idea with these easy, preschool quantity actions.

Free play utilizing “objects with slots”

Think about a muffin tin with 6 slots, and a set of balls that match inside – one ball per opening. If youngsters play with one thing like this, will it assist them be taught to consider matching gadgets one-to-one?

Dr. Kelly Combine thought this may work, so she examined it in a randomized experiment on 30 preschoolers (3-year-olds). Half the youngsters got “objects with slots” to play with (e.g., 6 balls and a 6-slot muffin tin). The remaining youngsters got a double set of toys with no container (e.g., 6 balls and 6 frog toys). The dad and mom have been informed to encourage youngsters to play with the toys at residence, after which, 6 weeks later, the researchers examined kids to see if that they had improved their understanding of one-to-one matching. Youngsters in each teams noticed enhancements, however those that performed with “objects with slots” made larger good points total (Combine et al 2011).

Sport: Duplicate a set utilizing small tokens or counters 

Can your youngster assemble a set of two gadgets? Three gadgets? Extra? To play this quantity recreation, arrange two, adjoining zones on a desk high or different flat floor (equivalent to the ground). You should utilize two placemats or ground mats to outline your areas. Alternatively, you could possibly draw chalk boundaries round every zone (on a pavement), or mark the borders with colourful tape (on a carpet).

Subsequent, place a small variety of tokens in a single the zones, and ask your youngster to replenish the opposite zone with the identical variety of tokens. You possibly can say one thing like, “Are you able to make one other set of tokens like this one? In order that it has the identical quantity?” After your youngster has made an try, depend the members of every set to see in the event that they match, and label the units as described within the earlier exercise (e.g., “1, 2, 3, 4, 5. There are 5 tokens!”)

For a variant of this recreation, create a set of index playing cards, every card displaying a unique variety of dots. Choose a card to problem your youngster with, and ask her or him to create an identical set of tokens. Comply with up in the identical approach, asking your youngster to depend and label the set.

Using index cards for a preschool number activity - a card displaying five dots alongside a set of five poker chips
Picture by Parenting Science

Tip for beginning out: Start with very small numbers. It will probably take virtually a yr for a two- or three-year-old to actually perceive how the counting system works, so don’t be stunned if youthful kids have hassle counting past “1-2-3.” Assist your youngster with counting if wanted, and increase set dimension step by step as your youngster’s abilities develop.

What do you have to use for tokens? For youngsters underneath the age of three years, it’s essential to decide on one thing that gained’t pose a choking hazard. In accordance with the U.S. Shopper Product Security Fee, a ball-shaped object is unsafe for youngsters underneath 3 years if the merchandise is smaller than a 1.75″ diameter golf ball. Different objects are unsafe if they will match inside a tube with a diameter of 1.25″ inches. Items out of your toddler’s constructing block set may do the job.

Additionally, attempt to use plain-looking tokens. You may suppose that little toy frogs or spiders would make counting extra enjoyable. However researchers have discovered that younger kids are inclined to get distracted by these particulars. Youngsters truly be taught extra from math actions after they manipulate easier, extra summary gadgets (Petersen and McNeil 2012). Plastic chips — like these used for poker or bingo — are a sensible choice for kids aged 3 and up.

Sharing on the tea occasion: Dividing up tokens into equal parts

Right here is one other exercise to assist youngsters apply one-to-one matching, impressed by the analysis of Brian Butterworth and his colleagues (2008).

Select three toy creatures to play the a part of occasion attendees, and have your youngster set the desk for them. Then give your youngster a set of “goodies” (tokens or actual edibles) to share with the occasion company. The whole variety of goodies must be a a number of of three, so your youngster can distribute all of the gadgets equally and don’t have any leftovers.

In case your youngster makes a mistake and offers one creature too many tokens, you possibly can voice the a part of one of many different characters and complain. You too can take turns taking part in the position of the tea occasion host and intentionally make a mistake. Ask in your youngster’s assist. Did somebody get too many tokens? Or not sufficient? Have your youngster repair it.

Actions for educating the precept of accelerating magnitudes

four cards, each displaying a different number of dots
Picture by Parenting Science

For these preschool quantity actions, use playing cards like these described the earlier part. You should utilize them in 3 ways.

Sport: Guess the correct order

To play this recreation, shuffle the playing cards, after which ask your youngster to put them, facet by facet, in a sequence of accelerating magnitude.

For youngsters who haven’t but realized to depend, use playing cards that change by a considerable quantity, e.g., 3, 6, 10, and 15. For youngsters with rising counting abilities, use playing cards that differ by a single dot, and have youngsters guess first, then test their solutions by counting. 

What’s the purpose of all this guesswork? Experiments present that even infants can spot variations this huge, and practising these duties could assist kids hone their estimation skills — skills that are important for future arithmetic achievement.

For instance, in a single examine, researchers examined five-year-olds with computer-based variations of those preschool quantity actions. The kids weren’t given sufficient time to depend; they merely took a fast look and answered primarily based on their intuitive, visible impression. Youngsters who practiced making progressively tougher discriminations — getting correct suggestions after every try — skilled subsequent enhancements of their skill to unravel issues utilizing symbolic numbers (Wang et al 2016).

Sport: Guess which card has extra dots?

To play this recreation, choose two playing cards, every displaying a unique variety of dots, and present them to your youngster. Which card has extra dots?

Ensure you begin with playing cards that differ by a ratio of not less than  2:1. As an example, attempt 1 vs. 2, 2 vs. 4, and a pair of vs. 5. You too can attempt bigger numbers, like 6 vs. 12.

As your youngster will get apply with these easy-to-discriminate variations, you possibly can current her with more and more tough selections (like 6 versus 8; and even 9 versus 10).

For a extra playful variant of the sport, you should utilize tokens as a substitute of playing cards, and faux they’re one thing enjoyable, like truffles. Dole out completely different quantities between you and ask, “Who has extra?” Make sure you give your youngster suggestions in regards to the appropriate reply.

And as youngsters turn out to be extra skillful, you should utilize your playing cards in a aggressive recreation referred to as, “Quantity Battle” (Scalise et al 2017). See my article, “DIY Preschool math video games that assist youngsters develop ‘quantity sense’” for a full description of the foundations.

Sport: Massive guys eat extra

To play, use your playing cards, in addition to three animal toys or dolls of various dimension — small, medium, and huge. Faux the toys are occasion company, and the gadgets on the playing cards are treats. Subsequent:

  1. Line up the three toys so as of dimension.
  2. Current your youngster with three playing cards, every card depicting a unique variety of dots.
  3. Ask your youngster to offer the best variety of treats to the most important toy, the second-greatest quantity to the second-largest toy, and the smallest quantity to the smallest toy.

After your youngster has distributed the goodies, present nice, encouraging suggestions.  “That’s proper!” (for an accurate response), and “That’s not proper…are you able to attempt once more?” (for an incorrect response).

In case you favor, you possibly can play the sport with tokens as a substitute of playing cards. And as soon as your youngster has began to learn and perceive quantity symbols, you should utilize playing cards that show solely Arabic numerals. This can assist youngsters apply quantity recognition.

When researchers examined related preschool quantity actions, they discovered that each dot-based and numeral-based video games helped kids develop higher intuitions about amount. However youngsters who performed the Arabic numeral model of the sport skilled higher progress in fundamental arithmetic abilities (Honoré and Noël 2016).

Three teddy bears (small, medium, and large) seated near three sacks of goodies, with each sack contraining a different number o items.
Picture of preschool quantity actions from examine by Honoré and Noël, see full credit score beneath

Faux play actions for educating youngsters about quantity symbols

What else can we do to foster studying about quantity symbols – just like the Arabic numeral “3”? Of their evaluate of academic math video games for preschoolers, Julie Sarama and Douglas Clement (2009) remind us that even unstructured, faux play can flip into quantity recognition actions.

As an instance, they cite an instance of two preschoolers engaged in fantasy role-playing a few “Dinosaur Store.” One participant acted because the store keeper (providing toy dinosaurs on the market). The opposite participant, the shopper, had cash (a deck of playing cards, with every displaying a unique, Arabic numeral, a corresponding variety of dots). The client would buy numerous dinosaurs by handing over a card: Give the store keeper a card with the quantity “5” on it, and it’s best to obtain 5 dinosaur toys in return. Then gamers might depend to verify an correct transaction.

So video games of shopping for and promoting could assist kids find out about quantity symbols. And so, too, may these role-playing video games:

  • Making pizzas. Utilizing cardboard disks and paper toppings, ask your pizza chef to make pizzas to order: Give the chef a quantity card, and have the chef create a pizza with the corresponding variety of toppings. When the pizza is completed, the chef and buyer can test for accuracy by counting the toppings and evaluating this with the numeral on the cardboard (Clements and Sarama 2009).
  • Delivering the Mail. Arrange a “road” with a sequence of various “properties” arrayed alongside it. Mark every residence with a “resident” (a toy or doll), in addition to a quantity card displaying the specified tackle. Be certain the addresses are lined up in numerical order (1, 2, 3…). Then ask your youngster to ship the “mail” – letters and packages marked with the specified addresses.

A puppet recreation for educating the one-to-one precept of counting objects, and the precept of cardinality

Right here’s one other “one-to-one” precept — this time the one-to-one precept of counting objects. Youngsters must be taught that every merchandise in a sequence is counted as soon as and solely as soon as. Additionally they must be taught the precept of cardinality, the concept the final phrase in our depend represents the numerosity of a set.

Youngsters be taught these concepts by means of apply. However they could additionally be taught by correcting others who make errors. In a single examine, researchers requested preschoolers to look at–and assist–an incompetent puppet depend a set of objects (Gelman et al 1986). The puppet would sometimes violate the one-to-one precept by double-counting (e.g., “one, two, three, three, 4…). He additionally typically skipped an object or repeated the mistaken cardinal worth.

Cow puppet looking at a set of poker chips
Picture by Parenting Science

Youngsters ranging in age from 3 to five have been fairly good at detecting these violations. So your youngster might need enjoyable correcting your individual goofball at residence.

What in case your youngster doesn’t discover an error? Right the puppet your self. And both approach, ask your youngster to clarify what went mistaken. In one other, related examine, researchers discovered that preschoolers didn’t make conceptual progress except they have been requested to clarify the puppet’s errors (Muldoon et al 2007). For a dialogue of how self-explanation could make preschool quantity actions and different academic experiences extra priceless, see this Parenting Science evaluate of the proof.

One other puppet-based recreation which may assist preschoolers develop intuitions about addition and subtraction

Younger kids have an extended option to go earlier than they’re able to carry out fundamental arithmetic calculations like “2 +3 = 5,” or “7 – 3 = 4.” However we’d be capable of construct their intuitions about addition and subtraction by asking the correct questions. A method to do that is by taking part in a recreation.

You start by pretending that somebody (a puppet or toy character) has baked some “truffles” (a set of tokens). Ask your youngster to depend the truffles (serving to your youngster with this if wanted).  

Subsequent, have the puppet bake another cake and add it to the set. Are there extra truffles or fewer truffles now? Ask your youngster, and supply her or him with appropriate suggestions afterwards.

You possibly can attempt the identical factor with subtraction by having the puppet “eat” a cake. And differ the sport by including or subtracting different small quantities, like two or three.

Ought to we count on kids to give you correct solutions? Not mandatory — particularly not if they’re underneath the age of three years (Izard et al 2014). However the expertise of predicting and checking is efficacious, and even when youngsters get the exact quantity mistaken, they do a great job arising with affordable guesses. When researchers requested 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds to carry out these duties, they discovered that 90% of the guesses have been in the correct route (Zur and Gelman 2004).

Board video games that educate preschoolers in regards to the quantity line

As your youngster begins to grasp the primary few quantity phrases, it’s also possible to check out this DIY board recreation for educating preschoolers in regards to the quantity line. Together with full directions for creating this recreation — a recreation examined by researchers — additionally, you will discover a dialogue of whether or not youngsters can profit from taking part in the standard recreation, Chutes and Ladders.

References: Preschool quantity actions

Butterworth B, Reeve R, and Lloyd D. 2008. Numerical thought with and with out phrases: Proof from indigenous Australian kids. Proceedings of the Nationwide Academy of Sciences 105(35): 13179-13184.

Carey S and Barner D. 2019. Ontogenetic Origins of Human Integer Representations. Developments Cogn Sci. 23(10):823-835.

Clements DH and Sarama J. 2009. Studying trajectories in early arithmetic—sequences of acquisition and educating. Encyclopedia of Language and Literacy Growth (pp. 1–7). London, ON: Canadian Language and Literacy Analysis Community.

Gelman R and Gallistel C. 1978. The kid’s understanding of quantity. Harvard College Press.

Gelman R, Meck E, and Merkin S. 1986. Younger kids’s numerical competence. Cognitive Growth 1(1): 1-29.

Honoré N and Noël MP. 2016. Enhancing Preschoolers’ Arithmetic by means of Quantity Magnitude Coaching: The Influence of Non-Symbolic and Symbolic Coaching. PLoS One. 11(11):e0166685.

Izard V, Streri A, Spelke ES. 2014. Towards actual quantity: younger kids use one-to-one correspondence to measure set id however not numerical equality. Cogn Psychol. 72:27-53.

Le Corre M and Carey S. 2007. One, two, three, 4, nothing extra: An investigation of the conceptual sources of the verbal counting rules. Cognition.  105:395–438. 

Levenson ES, Barkai R, Tirosh D, Tsamir P. 2022. Exploring adults’ consciousness of and strategies for early childhood numerical actions. Educ Stud Math. 109(1):5-21.

Combine KS, Moore JA, and Holcomb E. 2011. One-to-one play promotes numerical equivalence ideas. Journal of Cognition and Growth 12(4): 463-480.

Combine KS, Sandhofer CM, Moore JA, and Russell C. 2012. Acquisition of the cardinal phrase precept: The position of enter. Early Childhood Analysis Quarterly 27(2): 274–283. 

Muldoon KP, Lewis C, Francis B. 2007. Utilizing cardinality to examine portions: the position of social-cognitive battle in early numeracy. Developmental Psychology 10(5):694-711.

Park J and Brannon EM. 2013. Coaching the Approximate Quantity System Improves Math Proficiency. Psychol Sci. 2013 Oct;24(10):2013-9.

Petersen LA and McNeil NM. 2013. Results of Perceptually Wealthy Manipulatives on Preschoolers’ Counting Efficiency: Established Data Counts. Little one Dev. 84(3):1020-33.

Sarama J and Clements DH. 2009. Constructing Blocks and Cognitive Constructing Blocks: Taking part in to Know the World Mathematically. American Journal of Play. 1: 313-337.

Scalise NR, Daubert EN, Ramani GB. 2017.  Narrowing the Early Arithmetic Hole: A Play-Primarily based Intervention to Promote Low-Earnings Preschoolers’ Quantity Abilities. J Numer Cogn. 3(3):559-581.

Wang JJ and Feigenson 2019.  Infants acknowledge counting as numerically related. Developmental Science 22(6): e12805.

Wang JJ, Odic D, Halberda J, Feigenson L. 2016. Changing the precision of preschoolers’ approximate number system representations changes their symbolic math performance. J Exp Little one Psychol. 147:82-99.

Wynn Okay. 1990. Youngsters’s understanding of counting. Cognition. 36(2):155-93.

Zur O and Gelman R. 2004. Younger kids can add and subtract by predicting and checking. Early childhood Analysis Quarterly 19: 121-137.

Content material of “Preschool quantity actions” final modified 3/2023. Parts of the textual content derived from an earlier model of the article, written by the identical creator.

Picture credit for “Preschool quantity actions”

title picture of toys with plates and cups copyright Parenting Science

photographs of provides for preschool quantity actions copyright Parenting Science

experimental picture of bears and luggage from: Honoré N and Noël MP. 2016. Enhancing Preschoolers’ Arithmetic by means of Quantity Magnitude Coaching: The Influence of Non-Symbolic and Symbolic Coaching. PLoS One. 11(11):e0166685. Picture seems right here courtesy Creative Commons Attribution License

picture of puppet copyright Parenting Science