When is my Child Ready for Preschool Maths?

By Jasmine

Manipulatives, Math U See

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If you’re little one has taken an interest in the colorful blocks (the Math-U-See manipulatives) included in the Primer curriculum, it might be time to introduce them to Math-U-See! Even though they may not quite be ready to begin Primer, you can prepare your toddler for Math-U-See by providing purposeful activity and play in advance. Let’s learn about the research on manipulatives, and enjoy a few tips for how to incorporate manipulatives into playtime for your toddler.

The Research

There is quite a bit of research about using manipulatives for maths instruction. We’ve read it all, and here are the two most important principles parents using Math-U-See should know:

1. Manipulatives only work when students recognize them as tools for learning, not just toys for playing.

2. Manipulatives don’t teach maths. Students should use manipulatives under the guidance of an instructor to understand what they mean and how they represent maths concepts.

What does this mean for you? If you want to use Math-U-See with your toddler, it’s a good idea to create purpose-driven playtime to help your child prepare for Primer.

The Activities

Children who aren’t ready for Primer are probably not ready for activities that include counting and numbers. You should aim to develop familiarity with the blocks as tools for learning. Keep reading to find a few suggestions for the type of activities that could be fun with toddlers and manipulatives:

Block Colors

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

• While playing “Simon Says,” give specific directions using block color (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 color the block.

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

• Once your child has mastered the block color, without using the blocks as a reference, ask your child to try to color 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 color. (example: Is this the brown block or the pink block?)

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

Block Relationships 

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

• Using the block tracings page, ask your child to identify the color of one block. Then, see if he can identify other block tracings that are the same color 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 color 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.  

Block Patterns

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 color 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.

Block Sorting

Block sorting activities help your child understand how to think logically and organize 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 colored 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!


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