As I’m teaching my 6th child preschool math, I’m reminded that teaching preschool math can be frustrating or it can be a blast. Everything depends upon your approach.
Top 10 Preschool Math Tips
1. Preschool kids don’t understand abstract concepts.
With few exceptions, my preschool kids don’t fully understand one plus one. On the other hand when I frame all math questions in terms of cookies, suddenly they understand perfectly. This means you need to talk to your children using concrete items.
Don’t say one plus one, say one cookie plus one more cookie. My little girl understood subtraction instantly when I told her, “You have 5 cookies. Each of your brothers come in and eat 1 cookie. How many cookies do you have left?”
Preschool kids understand physical objects, but symbolic logic is a bit beyond their grasp. Keep preschool math concrete.
2. Use manipulatives as much as possible.
While Three Bear Family Rainbow Counters are often put to mischievous uses, they are ideal for teaching preschoolers to count, add, and subtract. Remember, preschool children are still very concrete. Math manipulatives demonstrate what is happening at a very visual level.
Take advantage of math manipulatives when you teach preschool math. Demonstrate counting, adding, and subtracting with them. Then let the children play. My best math kids spent the most time just playing with the manipulatives as preschoolers.
3. Count every chance you get
Count cans you’re putting into the cart. Count silverware when you’re setting the table. Count cars. Count dolls. What you can count is limitless, but arithmetic is basic fancy forms of counting.
Kids need to be very familiar with counting. It should be instinctive. You can’t count with your children too often. When kids can count sheep in their sleep, you might consider slowing down on the endless counting of objects.
4. Repetition works.
Along the same line as counting, repetition is a good thing when teaching preschool math. Small children don’t mind hearing the same chant over and over again. What am I saying?!? They love hearing the same chant, song, movie, or book again and again and again.
Take advantage of it and count with your children every day. Begin skip counting when your child can count to 20. They may not fully understand what they’re saying, but it will be memorized for future use in a couple of years.
5. Play games
Card games such as Uno Card Game and Go Fish Card Game are ideal for teaching children to read numbers. There are many other games such as Monopoly Junior Board Game and Snap It Up! Math: Add/Sub Card Game to play with kids.
Spend an afternoon or two a week enjoying playing family games. Your kids will adore the time spent with their parents, you’ll create great family memories, and you’ll have taught a bit of preschool math on the way.
6. Introduce workbooks
Some kids adore workbooks and will fill them out. Other children loathe them. If you have a child who adores workbooks, tear them apart and put the pages in page protectors. Place the page protectors in a 3-ring binder, give your child some dry-erase markers, and enjoy the peace and quiet. Your child can fill out the workbook every single day. Just wipe the pages off in the evening.
As I said, some children loathe workbooks. Don’t worry if you have a preschooler who’d rather wash dishes with mommy than fill out a workbook. It’s perfectly normal. Don’t force your child to do workbooks at this age. Instead just count dishes as you wash!
7. Don’t forget kitchen math.
Baking with children is a great way to introduce math to preschool kids. Preschool children adore cooking with mommy, and counting cups of flour is excellent for their beginning math skills.
Measuring cups are also an excellent way to teach children basic fractions. What is a half? What is a third? How many half cups go into one cup? How many thirds go into two cups? Take advantage of cooking to teach some basic math to your preschool kids.
8. Read math books.
There are many good math books available such as Bedtime Math: A Fun Excuse to Stay Up Late (Bedtime Math Series Book 1). Some of these books teach counting.
Others of these books, like The M&M’s Brand Chocolate Candies Counting Book, use M&Ms to teach addition and subtraction. Let’s just say your kids will adore math if you use The M&M’s Brand Chocolate Candies Counting Book to teach arithmetic!
9. Play math in the car.
One of the best ways to teach preschool math is to gently drill math in the car. Your child tosses the hardest math problem they know to you. You answer it. In return you toss a simple math problem to your child. Keep this game going as long as it holds your child’s interest.
Along the same line, there are CD’s like Count, Add, Subtract! Fun with Math, Music, and Movement that allow you to listen to counting songs in the car as you drive from activity to activity. These songs don’t just teach basic counting, but they also teach basic arithmetic. While the music may drive you batty, your preschool kids will love the repetition.
10. Keep Math Fun.
There will be plenty of time in middle school and high school for you and your child to sweat over algebra, geometry, and trigonometry. For now, enjoy the simpler math with your preschool child. Do math games, read math books, cook together, and enjoy learning math.
There’s no rush.
What is your favorite preschool math activity?