Number Sense: Make it Real!

numbers opaqueposted by Dr. Bilge Cerezci

Young children are motivated to explore mathematical concepts they encounter in their everyday interactions with the world. Through these interactions, they develop a range of informal understanding of numbers including ideas of more or less and one-to-one correspondence. For example, a child as young as two knows if she gets more or less crackers than her friend next to her. She also exhibits her basic understanding of one-to-one correspondence when she insists on getting a cookie because her brother had one and she had none. Such intuitive understandings of number sense may help lay the groundwork for later understandings of numerical equivalence and operations, such as addition and subtraction. While serving as important building blocks, such understanding does not necessarily help young children explicitly examine and interpret their experiences in mathematical forms. So, how do we help young children make connections from these informal knowledge around numbers to a deeper, more concrete understanding of numbers?

Helping children recognize math in the real world and finding everyday math activities at home is a great way for parents to reinforce young children’s developing number sense. For example, when you are setting your table for breakfast, ask your child to join you. You can ask them how many plates do you need to set the table or whether you have enough eggs for everyone or not. While they are taking the plates from the cabinet, encourage them to count. When young children practice counting, they’re also learning one-to-one correspondence. A child that understands one-to-one correspondence knows that 4 plates equals 4 or that 5 eggs equals 5. To help them practice this concept, give your children large groups of objects to count. For example, you are making a strawberry cake for dessert and you only need 10 strawberries. You may ask your child to help you figure out whether you have enough strawberries or not. As they are practicing this skill, children may count some of the strawberries twice and/or skip counting some of them. Therefore, it is important to closely observe your child as she is counting. When she is double-counting some of the strawberries, does she realize what she has done? Does she self-correct? In such instances, resist the temptation of correcting them. Instead, ask her to double-check her answer and give them enough time to check their work and self-correct their mistakes. If she is struggling, provide them with some strategies she can use(e.g., moving strawberries to a different pile as she counts).

Taking this kind of approach not only allows children to see math as fun, but also helps them see numbers as useful tools that they can use to make sense of the world around them. While doing these kinds of activities, the most important thing you can do is to help your child see math is something that makes sense and it is practical and enjoyable. This will help your youngsters to build a strong understanding of math and develop a love of learning math that will last a lifetime.

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Bilge Cerezci

Bilge Cerezci began her career as an educator in Turkey. After earning her B.S. in child development and education from Bosphorus University in Istanbul, she worked as a counselor and lead teacher at Turkish preschools. She moved to Chicago in 2007 to pursue graduate studies at the Erikson Institute and completed her master’s in child development with an infancy specialization in 2009. Dr. Cerezci was awarded her Ph.D. in applied child development from Loyola University Chicago and the Erikson Institute in 2016. She currently works for the Erikson Institute’s Early Math Collaborative, which was launched in 2007 to enhance the quality of early math education by helping preschool and early elementary school teachers incorporate effective early math instruction into their classrooms. Dr. Cerezci’s work for the Early Math Collaborative focuses on the refinement of a new tool that can be used to measure the quality of mathematics instruction in preschools and elementary schools. She also has served as adjunct faculty in the Child Development Department of the City Colleges of Chicago and the Teacher Education Department at Loyola University.

Read more posts by Bilge Cerezci

17 Replies to “Number Sense: Make it Real!”

  1. I agree that children can learn so much about numbers, counting, and predicting in everyday life….such as helping to cook

  2. I totally agree as well the children in my care always want to look out of the window to count the cars and trucks they see

  3. My children like to count a variety of things and it keep things interesting for them. Learning one-to-one correspondence, and learning using objects such as counters, leaves, crayons; these objects also help connect them to numbers in more concrete terms. They use food also to add to what they have on their plates, and subtract.

    1. Yes i have my children to set the table at breakfast and lunch. During art i let them count out and set paper with crayons out. You can even allow them to help with cooking and setting out snacks. It is fun for them.

  4. We count all day in our classroom-we count the days of the month, the number of teachers, children, the number of rainy,sunny, etc. days on our weather graph…
    We also count whenever we have to wait for anything, such as a friend getting a show and tell item from a backpack, or another class to pass before we go out of the door. The children love it and ask “can we count?” anytime there’s the slightest delay.

  5. we do surveys in our classroom.. this year will probably be pets how many have a cat how many have a dog etc then compare

  6. We count everything.
    The cars at the stop light, the children at the library for storytime, the snacks even the parents that have come and the children they are left.

  7. I love the idea of number sense and how to teach a child the ways of making sense of numbers through a variety of activities

  8. I currently have my preschoolers set the tables at meal time. I will begin to use this as a counting activity with predictions as well. Great ideas!

  9. I have 2 daughters,4 and 5 years old. I love observing their level of understanding numbers. My younger daughter learns a lot from her older sister and I can observe her making the connections and making sense of numbers.

  10. During conferences, me and my coworkers are asked all the time how parents can help their child with math and make it fun. We always encourage them to have their child count things while they are running errands, such as counting 5 apples to purchase. This makes math fun and the student does not realize they are even doing math outside of a school setting.

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