Monday, July 25, 2011

Tip 36 - The Number Sense - Early counting games build number smart brains

As a Speech-Language Pathologist, I have stressed the importance of building language skills in this blog. But equally important to academic success is mathematical ability. Below are suggestions of number games you can play, starting  with babies as young as 4 and 1/2 months old.

THE BIGGER BUNCH- Four and one-half months to one year of age - Did you know your baby can tell the difference between a line of five treats and three?  Once your baby can sit in a high chair and likes finger food, give it a try1 Using a healty snack like a favorite cereal or animal crackers put some of the snack items on two napkins in front of your baby. On one napkin, set out three of the items on the other napkin set out five. First ask a doll or puppet to pick the biggest pile. Show your baby how the puppet gets to pretend "eat" the pile with the most snacks. Then give your baby a chance. Even if you bunch the five items together and spread out the three items your baby will know to pick the napkin with the bigger pile. It's not really that your baby can count each one, but even babies at this age can estimate and figure out which pile has more as long as the piles don't have more than five or six items each and the two piles differ by at least two or more items.

HOME MADE NUMBER PUZZLES - One Year to Three years of age - Number puzzles are fun to make and more fun to play with. Take five to ten shirt cardboard sheets or pieces of thick copy paper. On each piece of cardboard or paper ask your child to use a marker or crayon to draw a circle around  the outlines of a number of quarters - (quarters are large enough that even small hands can usually guide a crayon around the perimeter). Each paper should have a different number of circles - 1, 2, 3, 4 etc. ddrawn on the bottom half of the paper. On the top half write the numeral that goes with the number of circles. Turn the papers over and each take a turn picking a paper and placing the correct number of quarters inside each circle. Count each quarter as you fill in the circles then "read" the numberal at the end.

EARLY ADDITION - Three to four years of age - Did you know your preschooler can add? Put three blocks down on the floor then cover the blocks with a towel. Ask your preschooler to give you one or two extra blocks to add to the pile. Without uncovering the the pile, scoot the blocks in under the towel. Take off the towel, and see if your preschooler thinks all the blocks are there. Then do the game again but this time hide one of the two additional blocks behind your back instead of adding it to the pile under the towel. When you uncover the pile, your preschooler should detect that one of the blocks is missing. If not, show the hidden block and try it again. After a few trials, your preschooler will be able to tell right away whether all the blocks are under the towel or whether one has been hidden -- He can add! You can reverse the game later and take a block or two away from a pile of five - most four year olds can tell if too many blocks have been deducted.

WHY? One of the leading neuroscientists investigating development of math skills is Stanislas DeHaene, who has recently published an updated edition of his book, "The Number Sense: How the Mind Creates Mathematics" that helps us understand the development of mathematical skills, Dehaene contends that we have some concept of number from the moment we are born. Research has shown that  chil

dren with problems with this inborn skill often end up struggling in later life. Dehaene has asserted that, the learning of a domain of arithmetic depends on certain core concepts of number available already during infancy P roblems with math skills, called Dyscalculia, has received much less attention from educators than Dyslexia has for reading— but research has shown that children with dyscalculia grow up to earn less,  and.spend less. They are also more likely to need help in school, be sick more often and run into legal problems.And research suggssts, that as with language, early intervention with math games may help prevent math problems in school.


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