Teaching kids to visualize numbers instead of just counting is one of the hallmarks of Dr. Joan Cotter’s Right Start method, which is what I’m using to introduce math to my four year old daughter Jenna.
One of my goals right now is for Jenna to be able to look at a pile of objects:
…and be able to organize them into a pattern that makes them easier to quantify:
There are many ways a child could choose to organize objects: by color, tens, twos, triangles, etc.
A classic idea from Right Start Level A would be to be to give a child a bunch of tally sticks, and ask him to create fives and tens.
Unfortunately, Jenna could care less about tally sticks, unless there’s an actual popsicle involved!
Jenna’s a girly girl, and so I was hoping colorful square tiles would capture her attention more. That worked, for a little bit. Then I came up with the idea of organizing the tiles into flowers. Now all of a sudden, Jenna’s really into it!
The 4 + 1 combination looks the prettiest (imo), but all of the other combinations work too. Jenna likes to experiment with all of them. So by making “flowers” she’s learning about 5 + 0 = 5, 3 + 1 = 5, 2 + 3 = 5, etc.
One final thought, don’t be intimidated by our fancy math manipulatives. Crackers would work too!