It seems there is nothing difficult in counting, but many kids absolutely refuse to understand why eleven goes after ten, and twenty-one — after twenty. Children swap numbers or even miss them, bringing their parents to despair. So how to teach a child to count?
The thing is that child’s memory is very selective. Children learn only those things that they are interesting, pleasing, surprising, or frightening to them. It is unlikely they will quickly remember something, in their opinion, uninteresting even if the adults insist on it. Therefore, parents should encourage the child so that the baby becomes interested in counting. In such a case, little boy or girl will easily learn to count things. You can also learn how to develop early math and logic skills in kids.
Count everything, count everywhere…
Linguists noted that while studying foreign languages a person most easily masters the numerals. The study of the alphabet requires special conditions for learning — paper, pen, pictures. However, you don’t need anything to learn counting — there’s no need to sit at the table with a pencil and a book. You can count everywhere: at home, in the street, at a supermarket. So just do it with your kid!
How to teach a child to count to ten?
The child is already two years old — it’s time to start learning to count. First, teach him to count from one to five. Walking in the street, count the trees, children on the playground, doors in the house, cars on the road. Count absolutely everything. Dressing the baby, pay attention to the fact that he has one pair of tights, but two socks; one cap, but two boots, and so forth. Having returned from a walk, count the shoes in the hallway. Ask your child to think about how many people there should be to wear four shoes. While reading books don’t miss out on the illustrations. Let your child count the balls, puppies, kittens on the pictures. If you are interested in how to teach a child to count, you should know that nursery rhymes with numerals can be good for learning how to count to ten.
Your kid should realize that he can benefit from learning to count. Thus, he will learn how to ask for more candies. Laying the table, ask your child for help. Let him give you a certain number of spoons, forks, plates.
Before going to the shop, tell the kid: ‘We have so many things to buy… Remember: onions, beets, carrots, potatoes and cereal — that is five purchases. Remind me, please, if I forget something’. While naming purchases, bend your fingers, and then ask the child to repeat the list. In the store, ask your child about the products you need to buy. Count them again. Forget to take some product — have only four. Let the child remember what’s missing. The kid will try to concentrate, and thus will train counting skills and auditory memory. If the child remembers the entire shopping list, praise him. Next time complicate the list.
You can also play supermarket-game with 3-year-old children. This game will help reinforce math skills. Play with self-made money. Write numerals on the money and give them to a child, as kids are more interested in the purchasing process. You’ll be the shop-assistant. You can also play without real money, using family currency: candies, candy wrappers or buttons. Encourage your child’s correct calculations.
If the child has learned to count, you can proceed to the study of numbers. Usually, the kids just memorize the numbers from one to ten. The main thing is that the kid understands that these figures indicate the number of objects. Three can stand for three kittens, three apples or three balloons. This quantity is always represented by one number. Kids really like magnetic numbers that you can attach to the fridge or to a special board. If the numbers are always before the child’s eyes, he will learn them even unconsciously.
When the baby learns numbers from one to ten, introduce the notion of ‘zero’. Make your child count what doesn’t exist. «If we have candies, we can count them, and if we have eaten all the candies and there’s nothing left, we have «zero candy». The word «zero» means «nothing». You can explain children of four to five years how to form numbers. Tell them about ‘-teen’ and ‘-ty’.
How to teach children to count to one hundred?
When you teach your child to count from one to one hundred, don’t require instant memorization. It is best to move forward step by step, for example, from one to ten, then from ten to twenty. Before setting out to explore new numbers, it is necessary to repeat what you learnt the previous day. Further teaching is possible only if the child has learned the previous material. Thus, gradually, the child will learn to count to one hundred. However, remember that the child must understand the meaning of numbers, not just to memorize them. Mathematics skills are based on understanding the actual meaning of numerals.
After the child has learnt to count to one hundred ask him to do the following task:
- What number goes before 6, 10, 24, 48, 86, 99?
- What number goes after 5, 14, 25, 54, 86, 94?
- What number is between 5 and 7; 11 and 13, 45 and 47?
- Find the missing number: 7,8,9,11,12.
If your child can count from one to one hundred and it is not difficult to him, then you can begin to learn reverse counting — it’s very useful for the kid’s memory. Here much depends on the kid — some children find this task an easy one, the others — can’t master reverse counting for a long time. Reverse counting is difficult. Show your toddler reverse counting in examples — when going down in an elevator or something of the kind.
Developing first mathematical skills
Today even toddlers know how to use a computer and a calculator, but it’s quite difficult for them to count in mind. The brain, as well as any other muscles, need regular exercise. In early childhood, counting, especially in mind, helps to develop mental abilities.
Some parents believe that their children, especially if under five, are not yet ready to learn counting. It’s not true. You should understand that the child’s desire and ability to count doesn’t appear suddenly, it is formed and it can be formed by parents. Usually children are able to count to ten at the age of two.
From the age of three, or even earlier, together with counting, you can give the toddler his first lessons in mathematics. You can explain your child what is ‘more and less’. Reading books, pay attention to the pictures. Ask your toddler to count flowers, butterflies and so on. Ask the baby what is bigger or smaller in the picture. You will see that your child’s results will exceed your expectations.
In order to explain the child the concept of ‘equality’ use examples such as: ‘M. has two dolls and L. has two dolls as well. Who has more dolls? Nobody! Because they both have equal quantity of dolls’.
After mastering equality, it’s time to start learning basic mathematical operations: addition (plus) and subtraction (minus). ‘You have two apples and I give you one more. Now you have three apples’. You can easily teach counting to 10 using only your fingers. To show how to add two to four it is necessary to raise two fingers on one hand and four on the other, and to calculate how many «open» fingers you see. The same can be done with candies, toys and sticks. It is useless to insist that the kid just remembers that five plus three is eight. The child needs to understand the mechanism of counting. Similarly, explain subtraction: count how many candies the child has, then eat some, after that count how much is left. Here the child needs to remember the following: when we add we get more, and when we subtract we get less.
Explain the child that when we add the sequence of objects doesn’t matter — the result will be the same. For example, if we first take three apples, then two pears — we’ll have five fruits. And if we take two pears, and then two apples — we will still get five fruits. Thus, you explain your child the Associative Law of addition.
Today the market offers a large selection of manuals and books on early childhood development, including books on how to teach a child to count. However, before you purchase a book on counting for your child, examine it very carefully. Avoid books that have phrases like ‘try to guess how many’ or ‘define without counting’ because this is an erroneous approach to developing mathematical skills. Mathematics is an exact science; it is not about guesses and believes. You cannot teach children to count by using ‘guess’, because this implies ambiguous answers and the baby may begin to think that in Maths it is easy to guess without calculations.
Sometimes parents complain that their children have humanitarian mind and they have no aptitude for mathematics. However, to study counting you don’t need to have special abilities. On the contrary, Maths helps to improve mental abilities, to develop memory and to form logical thinking. The sooner you begin to train the brain with the help of mathematical calculations, the faster your efforts will bring a good result. Good luck! I hope that this article will help you teach your child to count.