My daughter has always loved counting–maybe one reason is because we always count everything–we count her dolls, her bites of food, when we play hide and seek (of course!), the steps up and down the stairs, the birds we can see, and just everything all around us!
I believe that the foundation for good math skills later on in life begins with learning the value of numbers. Often, we first teach our children to recognize the numeral and have them associate it with a sound (the name of the number). But what we need to do is teach our children the value of the number, i.e. that 5= 5 apples, 5 dots, 5 cats, etc. Learning to recognize the numeral will come eventually–it always does!
Before summer I thought she knew the value of the numbers 1-10 well enough to begin teaching her how to recognize the numeral by sight. She did start learning to read the numerals, but I was a bit shocked to find out that she didn’t associate them with a value! In other words, she could recognize that 6 equaled six, but she did not know or comprehend that 6 equaled 1,2,3,4,5,6 of something.
That’s when I decided to stop and focus on her learning the value of the numbers.
The first thing we did was make a number lapbook. This was good practice for her and she loved helping to make it, but I still felt we needed something that just focused on counting without having to worry about the numerals.
So we set about making our very own counting sticks! And not just one set, but two! This has turned out to be a fantastic math aid!
There are of course numerous ways to make counting sticks–there are the wonderful Montessori counting sticks, there are plain sticks where each stick represents 1, sticks with stickers, sticks with bows, all sorts of amazing and fantastic counting sticks.
For our project, (since I’m all about doing the most with the least amount of work, ha) we decided to stick with the basics.
This is what we used:
20 jumbo popsicle sticks
pasta (bow ties in our case)
colorful Cheerios (because, why not?) Note: I tried to match the sizes of the 2 materials used
a few weeks
First, we counted out 20 jumbo popsicle sticks. (Remember, with everything I do with her, I’m always counting, counting, counting….)
We worked on one set first.
First we glued all the bow tie pasta on to ten jumbo popsicle sticks. 1-10
The next time, we painted the bow tie pasta.
We let them dry and gave our project a rest.
A few days later we glued the painted and dried pasta onto the jumbo popsicle sticks.
They looked beautiful!
She played with these for a while, made little families and gardens out of them (‘cuz who wouldn’t want to play with something so appealing to the eye?) and when she was good and ready, we worked on the next set of counting sticks.
This time, all she had to do was glue the Cheerios on to the popsicle sticks. I made little dots so she would know how many to put on. I don’t know what happened to the pictures for this part, but I think you get the idea!
Don’t they look cute?
Now we had two glorious sets of counting sticks!
Here are a few of the activities we did with these home made counting sticks over the past few months:
I would give her 3 or 4 of the counting sticks, and she would match the 2 that were the same amount. I tried to give her very obviously different values to make it easy for her.
Matching from 1-5. I gave her one set from 1-5 and then handed her one at a time from the other set (only from 1-5) for her to match up.
Later one we moved to numbers 6-10. She was so excited every time she found a match!
Matching with raisins–first match, then eat! (This was a fav!)
Counting simple combinations–simple addition!
Later we moved to matching the value to the numeral
Now bigger numbers!
Free play and counting-so much fun!
Making up “math stories” –can’t remember the details now, but I know there were a lot of princesses and queens involved.
Picture this: Once upon a time, there were 7 queens and 7 princesses….
We still use these and she still loves them–they are beautiful to look at, fun to hold, easy to count, and she’s proud that she made them!
As we discover more math games and activities to do with them, I’ll try to put them down here for you as well.
What about you? What math games have you done with your preschoolers that involve counting sticks of some sort?I would love to hear about them!
Happy counting, matching and adding!