Monday, January 30, 2012

Five New Math Activities and Games

I haven't been able to create new posts in twelve days (the others were automatic posts) but Tyler's work and passion for numbers has continued to take off during that time. Before I get into what he's doing, I want to say that he is not a typical 29 month old when it comes to this subject (or a lot of things). Most children his age will probably not be ready or interested at all in the following activities. If your child isn't here yet, they are not all behind! Every child's developmental process is different. [Toddler Early Math Milestones] It is typically a slow process for a child to learn the correlation between number quantity and it's suggested to start with a good deal of 1:1 correspondence work and the sandpaper numerals. If you'd like to see some of our favorite early math activities, you can click on the "math" tag from the subjects in the left panel of my blog to find them.

To backtrack, Tyler has had 1:1 correspondence down for some time and has understood at least how to pick three books before bed time. He knows at least eight shapes, the differences between heavy/light, big/small, long/short, can sort by size, can match objects to patterns and has recently learned to recognize numbers 1-12. He has been counting out up to eight objects in a book correctly since last summer (before he was two years old) as well as up to 12 real objects. He can stack 16 cubes or unit blocks. We have used toys such as shape puzzles, sorters, sandpaper numeral peg work, an abacus, used different sized measuring cups and spoons in sensory play and baking, and I have counted things for him and talked about numbers in a natural way since he was a baby.

As of my last post a couple weeks ago, even though he's been ill this whole time, Tyler is now counting to 29 on his own. Needing help with 30, 40, 50, 60 (as he doesn't know his tens) he counted up to 64 last night before getting bored (a similar video is shown above). He is counting backwards from 10-1, occasionally skipping 4. He is able to look at a number of objects (1-3) and know how many there are quickly. He is.understanding quantity not only with tangible things (objects) but will jump, kiss me, pat my nose or do other actions a certain number of times when given a number. He has also been showing early subtraction knowledge. If he is playing with a number of objects and we ask for one object then inquire on how many he has left, he instantly has the answer. Addition has been easy adding with one, though we haven't done more than plus one. He loves to listen to "The 12 days of Christmas" (yes, January) and grab each number from his numbers puzzle as they go up. To him this is fun. It's what he likes. The following are the activities that we've done in the last couple weeks to keep his passions going!

Go Fish

Since Tyler learned his numbers and was so excited by them, I figured we would try to play "Go Fish".
Though we have a deck of cards, I wanted something with bigger numbers and less distractions for the game. I found these Thomas The Train flashcards in the dollar section at Target and purchased two sets. We used numbers 1-6 the first time and I only dealt four cards to myself and four cards to Tyler so he would have less to keep track of.

My husband and I took turned helping him play. He quickly picked up on finding matches of numbers and putting them down. He needed help learning how the game works and the rules of course, but after several games he got the hang of it. My husband then had to cook lunch so I figured that would be the end of playing, but Tyler wanted more. I didn't really think it would work well, but Ty is always ready to prove me wrong lately! We played for at least half an hour.

Ty had trouble holding the cards when he had more than two, so he lay them on the floor as I kinda expected, though sometimes now he will lay them in his lap or hold them. Tyler took to asking me for certain numbers quickly, though once in a while he asked for a random cards without looking at his own. When he got a match, he asked more for more of the same number. It was cute and he didn't mind being redirected and helped a bit. He was okay with handing his cards over to me when he had them. He sure did like telling me to go fish though! He now fully understands the game and needs very little redirection other than convincing when it's time for him to "go fish". He knows he doesn't want more cards!

The only trouble I can spot with this game is that Tyler quickly recognized the correlation between the number of trains or other items on the back of the cards and the number on the other side. One of the first times we played, he grabbed a card with one train on it from the go fish pile, saying "one!". I often found him studying the backs of my cards as well. For this reason I've started to use some higher numbers so it isn't so easy for him to figure out what he's looking at, though it's good practice for him to recognize quantity too, so I do use a few lower numbers he can figure out!

If your child doesn't yet recognize numbers but knows colors, shapes or letters, you could play with those types of flashcards or make your own! I do suggest buying a true set of Go Fish cards if you're able though.
Matching Numerals to Visual Quantity

Seeing that Tyler decided to learn the names of numbers 1-10 from his caterpillar puzzle, I knew I needed to get him started on the important stuff a bit more, learning quantity! We'd been using his sandpaper numeral peg boards, but I wanted to mix it up and get the concept into his brain in several different ways. This is a more visual and less "hands on" way to see that, for example "three is MORE than one or two", but it works and will be important in the future for reading a dice.

Using stickers, I made cards with either one, two or three dots on them. I also made cards with the numbers 1-3 to correspond. Tyler's work would be to match the number of dots or stars he saw on the card to the correct number.

This isn't a work that Tyler is ready to do by himself yet, mostly due to maturity. Though his likes this work, laying out cards to match to label cards isn't something he cares to do by himself. He wants me to make it a bit of a game. So, we lay out the numbers, then I gave Tyler one card at a time, asking how many dots he sees. He surprised from the first attempt by shouting out "one!" and "two" correctly right away. With three he sometimes has a bit more pause and I encourage him to count the dots if needed, though other days he's quite quick.

The only "issue" we had with this work (and I noticed it when we did heavy/light and warm/cold sorting), is that Tyler likes to cover the label or number rather than placing them above or below it, making it difficult or impossible to see where the next item may go. I decided to tape the numbers to cups so that he could put the cards inside next time. Though it's ideal to control things such as cup color (keeping everything the same except what is to be focused upon), following the child meant having to push that rule aside as I don't have three same cups or small bowls to work with! He doesn't seem too distracted. 
Number Work with Playing Cards

Just before he showed us that he had truly mastered recognizing 1-10 with his puzzle, I decided to get a deck of playing cards out to see if he was interested. He immediately enjoyed finding the numbers and noticing that some were red and others were black. As I sorted through to get rid of everything but the numbers, he became interested in learning the different suits. I knew I had to figure out a way for him to use the cards.

I soon decided to give him cards 1-10 in clubs (I taped over the Aces with 1's) to see if he could put them in numerical order as he does his caterpillar puzzle. He needed a bit of help with the concept and he got to six or seven before getting a bit overwhelmed and moving on to something else. He also kept getting 6 and 9 confused, even though I suggested he count the clubs. He just didn't want to take the time. I decided we would only work on putting 1-5 in order next time.

After putting them in order the next day, I then had 1-5 in hearts ready to go, and asked if he wanted to match them to the clubs by numeral. He was cool with that.

This is a work he has taken off of his shelf to do a few times, though he it isn't a favorite. I'm not sure what he does with it when I'm not around as I sometimes find it laying scattered on his rug with all of his other number works (he isn't as into putting everything back on his own as he used to be...), but something must intrigue him.

Active Numerosity Games

As mentioned near the beginning of this post, I've done a few active games with Tyler to see what he could do with numbers as well as to practice in different ways. Here are some that you may be interested in trying.

Ask your child if they can do whatever they love to a certain amount of times: Could you eat three Cheerios? Could you put two balls in the basket? Could you give me four crayons?

You can also work on intangible actions, asking: Can you stomp your feet six times? Can you give your doll two kisses? Could you pat your head four times?

While we mix it up during the day, Tyler's favorite thing to do is to jump, so I ask if he can jump a certain amount of times, usually no higher than twelve. He wants to play this game quite often! After a couple days of playing, I then added to choices, asking, for example, "Do you want to jump two times or three?" or "Do you want to jump four times or eight?". The latter game made me realize that he does know which number is higher or "more", as he almost always picks the higher number! He wants to jump as many times as possible!

Counting on our Fingers

Since becoming interested in numbers, Tyler has also wanted to be able to show a certain number with his fingers. He first wanted to count our fingers over and over and to push them down or bring them up while we said the numbers. He then started to work more on his own hands.  He delighted in showing us a whole hand and saying "Five" then bringing out his other hand and telling us "ten!". Though it was tricky work at first, he is getting pretty darn good at showing numbers with his fingers, counting backwards and forwards with them. This is something he really wanted to master, so along with just helping him figure it all out, we worked more on finger plays with numbers to make it fun and get him that finger exercise to help his control. These are the songs we used:

Where is Thumbkin?
Five Little Monkeys
The Crocodile Song
Five Little Ducks
Five Little Speckled Frogs

Near Future:
I now want expand upon Tyler's subtraction (it's all been very casual), understanding quantity with higher numbers, using objects to show quantity, and simple fractions. I would love to create the traditional Montessori Red Rods and Spindle Box as I cannot purchase them right now, but haven't quite figured out a very low to no cost way to do it yet that I'm happy with. Here's to hoping inspiration strikes soon!

Linking up with the fabulous Living Montessori Now and 1+1+1=1!


  1. to make the red rods I would just go to the home improvement store and find the tiny square dowels and take really strong scissors and cut them or have the guys cut them for you there.

    May need to sand the edge.

    and you could leave them natural or paint them 'red' :-)

    The kids in the videos doing this activity are a bit older so we may hold off but that is how I will make it when the time comes.


  2. Hi,

    I love your blog. I had a question - in the video where he is using his hand to grab handfuls of material and place it in a jar ... what material is that? It looks like corn kernels .... but I wanted to double check. I am always looking for new materials to add to our sensory table.

    Thank you!

  3. Thank you Nicole! I am hoping to someday make him those exact rods myself! I found a DIY on another blog. I've been trying to figure out how to do something similar with what we already have but no luck so far. :)

    D: The material is dyed rice. He adores it! You may already know how, but if not, here's how to dye rice or pasta.

  4. Great ways to follow Tyler's math interest ... I love your active numerosity games! Tyler's doing awesome work, and I love that you're observing and following his interests. Thanks for linking up with Montessori Monday! Deb @

  5. I'm so glad I've found your math ideas! I have a 26-month-old daughter who has similar interests. Thanks for sharing!