Is My Child Ready for Preschool Maths?

By Jasmine

Manipulatives, Math U See

Is my child ready for preschool maths?

It's a question many parents ask themselves when they watch their young ones grow up and start taking an interest in the world around them.

Is it too early to start with a program for maths? Is choosing a proper maths program to follow too much pressure for them? How do you know when it's the right time to get started on such a complex subject?

Some parents know straight away. If you've got a child that is already starting to count numbers aloud and start adding up simple objects around the home, you're ready to get started straight away.

Why should I use a maths program to teach numbers?

The good thing about following a specific maths program designed for preschool maths is because the activities are specially suited for young minds. 

The Math-U-See program teaches numbers using simple activities, telling the time, numbers, basic addition and fun maths activities - as well as the popular hands-on manipulatives. 

And, the best thing is, you're not just dumping a program on your kid and walking away after a year or so of learning. Because the Math-U-See program is a complete curriculum, you've got maths sorted from preschool and Primary school to Grade 12.

You're giving your little one a hands-on, multisensory structure with maths that will serve them for life, impacting their future schooling, study, career and employment. I know it's hard to think so far ahead into the future sometimes, but it's important to keep in mind where you're headed with your child.

Where do I start?

Even just starting to use the hands-on manipulatives through simple games and activities can sometimes be the best way forward. Especially if you don't want to overwhelm your child, you can give them the blocks and let them learn the colours and number association. This connection will serve them incredible in future years, especially when we start learning Place Value - a topic that many kids even in high school often struggle to understand!

Why use these particular hands-on tools? Well, here's a few good reasons, as well as some of the research behind the importance of making maths multisensory and tactile for your child. 

Research proves hands-on blocks are essential

There is loads of research about using hands-on manipulatives for maths instruction and the importance of making maths easy to understand. Most often, it's taught as a complicated subject and because it's so abstract, many children often struggle. They either remember the formula or simply don't get maths at all, and end up hating the subject

Why would anyone hate maths? Well, because it wasn't taught properly. Maths is the language of the Universe and is something we use every day. We add up people in a room to figure out how many cups of juice to pass out to our friends, we go to the shops and make sure we have enough snacks for 5 people x 5 school days and we estimate weight, measurement and figures constantly. We'll always need maths, in the same way we'll always need language as a means of communication.

Similarly, maths must be taught as a language. If we're going to have this subject make any sense to our kids, we need to start from the ground up.

You can read more about teaching maths as a language here.

Here's a recap of what we've discussed so far for parents who are considering using these hands-on blocks and the Math-U-See program for their child:

  • Maths can be taught in simple and easy ways
  • Manipulatives are the key component of hands-on learning
  • These hands-on tools are used in each lesson of the Math-U-See program for effective maths instruction from preschool and Primary to Grade 12.
  • Although manipulatives are the foundation of teaching maths successfully with your child, it's important to have a structured program to follow

If you need some more information about the pros and cons of using manipulatives when teaching maths, you can read more about the importance of hands-on blocks here.

Using games and activities is a great way to learn

Teaching maths using simple and engaging activities is often the easiest way to introduce the topic to your child, especially if you think that jumping straight into maths books will overwhelm them.

You can simply order the Primer Level for your child, get the blocks out and start using them with our easy maths activities download and then when your child is ready, start them with the Primer level books. 

Remember, the books aren't heavy or complicated. They are specifically designed for preschool and younger kids and have heaps of fun activities and numbers to learn!

The colours of the blocks are crucial

Important concepts in the Primer level of Math-U-See require your child to understand the connection between the length, colour, and number of each block. Here are some activities that can help develop these skills:

• While playing “Simon Says,” give specific directions using block colour (example: “Put a light blue block on your head”).

• Using a pencil and a blank piece of paper, ask your child to trace each block and then colour the block.

• Using the block tracings page, ask your child to use the blocks to figure out what colour each block should be.

• Once your child has mastered the block colour, without using the blocks as a reference, ask your child to try to colour the block tracings from memory.

• While closing his eyes, ask the child to use his hands to feel the blocks. Once they have felt the blocks, ask your child to guess the block colour. (example: Is this the brown block or the pink block?)

Activities such as these allow your child to become familiar with block colours and prepares him to begin associating the blocks with numbers.

Learning number relationships with the blocks

The activities below help your child develop an innate sense of number relationships, which will be important in Primer as kids learn concepts such as less than and greater than.

• Using the block tracings page, ask your child to identify the colour of one block. Then, see if he can identify other block tracings that are the same colour and size. He can use the blocks to check his guess.

• Ask your child to line up the blocks by length, from shortest to longest and vice versa.

• After you put the blocks in order, take one away while your child isn’t looking. Then, ask your child to figure out which colour block is missing.

• The “Match” game is always fun. Lay a block down and ask your child to gather groups of blocks that are as long as the block you selected. To increase difficulty, lay down several blocks, two or three end-to-end, and ask your child to locate the matching blocks.

• “Cover the Block” is another fun game. Using a red hundred-block, ask your child to select smaller blocks that cover the red hundred-block without any gaps and without having any blocks extend beyond the red hundred-block. Ask your child to find different solutions to the problem.  

Learning patterns is important too

Your child will learn to connect the blocks to their corresponding numbers in Primer, which allows him to understand patterns and numbers.

• After placing the blocks in order by length and removing every other block, ask your child to say the colour pattern aloud (example: pink, brown, tan, light green)

• Ask your child to create his own pattern using the blocks (example: light blue, tan, light blue, tan).

• The “Copy My Pattern” game involves letting your child use the blocks to make a pattern that you copy. You and your child can take turns being the creator of the pattern.

Sorting and re-arranging is an easy activity

Block sorting activities help your child understand how to think logically and organise information quickly. These are necessary skills for math reasoning.

• Ask your child to sort the blocks and put them into their corresponding compartments of the plastic tray.

• Have your child attempt to regroup blocks in different ways such as light/dark coloured blocks or long/short blocks. Try to get your child to create his own block groupings. Start with two groups and then progress to three when your child is ready.

You will notice that none of the activities we’ve presented require your child to count or rely on numbers. These activities lay the foundation for the Math-U-See program, and they make learning fun. Purpose-driven playtime with Math-U-See integer blocks are a great way to start your toddler on the path to becoming a lifelong learner!

More information, plus free download

To find out more information on our Preschool maths program for kids and the way we use that with the blocks, check out the Primer page here:

Plus, you can download your free Games & Activity booklet (pictured above) to start using these fun maths activities with your young ones.

Let us know if you have any questions,

We're here to help anytime

The Team at Maths Australia


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