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Dear Debi,
My 3-year-old frequently asks to "do math" and I don't want to discourage her, but math wasn’t exactly my best subject. I haven't been able to think of anything age-appropriate that will look enough like math to satisfy her. I'm stumped. Any ideas?
Shanna , Inglewood, CA
Debi's Tips
Debi Gutierrez
Debi Gutierrez
Host
  • Math is more than learning numbers
  • Use everyday experiences to teach math
  • Ask math-related questions throughout the day
Expert Advice
Jim Goodrich
Jim Goodrich
Pre-K and Kindergarten Program Coordinator
For a toddler, math involves problem-solving, recognizing shapes, and basic counting. There are many ways math can be represented in a child care or home setting. It’s about getting the kid to see math in all its many aspects.

Encourage children to count with you. Point out numbers in your house and when you see them outside on billboards or buildings. Point out math opportunities whenever they arise in conversation. For example, you should point out common shapes, such as circles, squares or triangles. Even when you see a glass of milk, say something like, “I see your glass is full.” That’s pointing out math concepts. You have to see it in your environment.

When the kids get to be 4 or 5 years old, get them to go circle hunting. Then you can get them to start counting the circles. Also incorporate the idea of graphing. You can graph just about anything. You can graph how many pairs of shoes your kids have with laces, or how many are sandals, or how many different foods they eat during the week. Also incorporate the idea of recognizing patterns.

You can incorporate math throughout the day. When using your graphing, patterning and sorting, talk to your children about what they’re doing. Ask them about what they’re counting and how much or how many. They love to sort buttons and coins and bears and colors; these are all pre-math skills.

Perhaps the best way you can incorporate math in the home is through a block center. With blocks you’re dealing with geometry, balance and symmetry. A lot of block structures have symmetry to them. Then when you add things, whether it’s animals, then they start patterning and the kids don’t even realize they’re doing math.
Child Care provider Comments
Alma Martinez
Alma Martinez
Child care provider for 10 years
We do a lot of math and science related activities that involve measuring. For example, the kids like to make their own play-dough, so they have to measure it out. We do a lot of experiments, too. We’ve gathered a bunch of worms and created a habitat for them. We’ve charted how many kids would hold the worms in their hands and how many wouldn’t. We put a bunch of worms in each jar, so the kids can count how many worms were in each one.
Sandra
Sandra
Child care provider for 3 years
Right now, the kids I care for are aged three and under. Basically, we are doing a lot of counting, as opposed to number recognition. During our circle time, we do exercises and every day we add a number. So if we are doing jumping jacks, we start with ten. The next day we’ll do 11 and so on. When we are out on our walks, we’ll count the cars, birds, cats or dogs that we see.
Erica
Erica
Child care provider for 8 years
Most of the stuff we do is play activity outside. We see how many times we can bounce the ball off the ground and use counting there. When we are eating ice cream, we count how many cones or scoops we have and all the different ways we can come up with the final number.

Math + Games = Learning Featured Activity:
Math + Games = Learning
Math in Dramatic Play Featured Video:
Math in Dramatic Play
Topic: Early Learning Areas
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Resources
PBS / Ready to Learn
Scholastic / Math
Learning Planet
The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)
Downloads (Get Reader)
Tips on Doing Math with Preschoolers pdf
 
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