One of the instructional goals of most primary teachers, those in grades preK-3rd, is helping your child develop number sense. Number sense is a sense similar to our other sense. It is to math what smell is to cooking. Number sense means your child has an automatic understanding of what numbers mean. Your child has number sense if they understand the relationships between different numbers. If your child can perform mental math, understands symbols, and uses numbers in the real world, they are on their way to number sense. As they get older, students with really strong number sense can estimate and average well, do calculations in their mind, and make a plan for solving a problem.
Number sense is really quite important to being successful in math early on. So how can we help children develop this number sense? One way is to play board games with your children. They roll a dice, count on, and begin to develop a deep understand of the relation those first six number have to one another. Maybe there is a spinner. If your child is rooting for the highest number, or the number they need to "get home", they are on their way to developing good number sense. The more varied the board game, the better. Look for age appropriate games with dice, cards to choose, or even money. Avoid games with elaborate money systems such as those in monopoly or life, unless your child is ready for these. also avoid games where the counting is done for you or the set up is electronic. Children don't pay attention to those number relationships because the numbers are done for them.
Another way is to have your child order things for themselves using paper money whenever possible. It is not necessary for them to count the change or even predict the change ahead of time for this to be a good exercise. They can buy a stamp at the post office. Buy one bottle of water at Berkots. Buy one taco at Taco Patio. As your children develop an understanding that the taco, stamp, and bottle of water are less than five, greater than one or less than ten, they are developing number sense. Your efforts at home will be coupled with our lessons at school. Your child has a better chance of working hard at understanding math if we all support their number sense.
For more ways to support your child's number sense, click the link below.
Erin Rae is the Curriculum Coordinator at Lockport 91.