Preschool Math with Manipulatives

Is your child aware of and curious about how numbers and counting are used in the world around them? Here are some skills that children are developing during the preschool years:

  • Counting sets of objects beginning with smaller sets and moving to sets of up to 10 objects.
  • Pointing to places on a number line and counting with 1:1 correspondence along the line from left to right – older children can begin to count backwards from right to left.
  • Learning to identify numerals and understanding that a written numeral refers to a quantity of objects; written numeral “3” means 3 objects. Children will progress to higher numerals as they prepare for Kindergarten.
  • Adding and subtracting small numbers of familiar objects. For example: “I have three cookies. You have two. How many do we have all together?”
  • Putting written numbers in order from 1 to 5 in the correct order, small to large.
  • Counting from 1-10 and higher as development continues.
  • Understanding of concepts of quantity (for example, “more” and “less”) and size (such as, “bigger” and “smaller”) and using those terms correctly.
  • One of the best ways to work with young children on mathematical concepts such as those listed above is to use hands-on materials. Teaching math using manipulatives helps children better understand math concepts. Hands-on learning or learning by doing keeps their attention as they naturally want to play, explore objects and learn. When children can touch and move manipulatives or real things when learning new skills, their senses are also involved in the learning experience. Children benefit when they are able to fully understand new concepts with concrete materials before they are expected to understand the same ideas with symbols.

    Here are some commonly used math manipulatives and how they can be used:

    Unifix Cubes: These cubes connect on all six sides and can be placed together. As students work on patterning, counting and operation skills, the square cubes build small-motor and eye-hand coordination too.

    One Inch Blocks: These hardwood cubes are perfect for beginning counting, patterning, color recognition, teaching basic geometric concepts and building. They are also good for beginning measurement activities such as – Show me how many one inch blocks are as long as the side of
    the book?

    Pattern Blocks: These blocks are versatile manipulatives with more than one purpose. They come in six colors and shapes and can be used to teach everything from number sense to graphing, patterning, and more.

    If you don’t have these items available, plastic bottle caps, old keys, and buttons are great alternatives. Happy counting!