Friday, January 27, 2012

Homemade Number Cards

I was at Target earlier this morning and was so close to buying a pack of "Number Cards" for my 2 year old, since she is really getting into number identification and counting.  Luckily, before I checked out, I realized that I could save myself a few bucks and make math so much more meaningful just by making my own.  Do I really think she is going to know/care about the difference between factory-made and mom-made? I think not.  Rather than spend the $4.99 on the pre-made cards, I got a pack of blank 3 x 5" index cards.  All I need now is a Sharpie.  The nice thing about making these homemade cards is that I can:

1. go up to whatever value I want (we're at 30 right now),
2. decide if I want to write only numerals, or words and numerals, or even add pictures (see #3)
3. draw pictures of things that I know she will love! (right now she's in love with Max and Ruby, so I can draw 10 bunnies or 15 carrots or whatever)  The fact that the pictures will relate to something she loves will make the cards a positive thing that she really enjoys, as opposed to an isolated math threat.

The possibilities of these cards are truly endless.  We'll start with identifying and ordering from least to greatest, but from there, we could do so many different FUN (and educational) things with these cards -- all for the cost of a pack of index cards!

Remember, kids need to make connections to really make learning meaningful.  What does your child love? Find out and use that as the base for any learning opportunity!

Happy Educating!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Is Finger-Counting OK?

The question, "Is it OK for a child to count on his fingers?" came up recently.
My thoughts below...
In a word, YES!  When a child is just learning about the concept of numbers, it is fine for her to use her fingers. The keywords here, though, are " just learning".  

Young children do not have a grasp of the abstract value of numbers and their representation in symbols.  It is a very tough concept when you stop to think about it.  When kids are just learning, we try to encourage them to relate physical objects to the symbolic numbers.  As they mature, kids' minds can comprehend that the symbol for 2 (what we think of as the number 2) is really representing 2 objects (whatever they may be).  

-Why do some kids use their fingers when learning how to count while others don't?

Some kids use their fingers while others don't for a variety of reasons.  If the child was taught to count by only seeing her parents use their fingers, that child probably doesn't have many other frames of reference for what numbers can symbolize.  As a parent, we can certainly use fingers to count with our children, but we also need to make sure we count using books, toys, crackers, blocks, etc. so children see that numbers represent many different types of objects, not just fingers.

- Is a child who depends on finger counting at a disadvantage when it comes to mastering mathematical concepts? Why or why not? 

A young child who relies on finger counting is only at a disadvantage if he doesn't make the leap to the abstract.  If he cannot comprehend that numbers are used to count multiple items, he may struggle with higher level math skills.  We should strive to use finger counting in the most basic of math foundation building and then stretch our kids in other ways.  We certainly don't want children to think numbers "stop" at 10, (or 20 if they count their toes).  

- What suggestions can you give a parent who wants to help their child improve their math skills and lessen their dependence on finger counting? 

Try having kids count a variety of objects.  Start by counting fingers 1-10, and then repeat the process with blocks, books, toys, etc.  With the new objects (not fingers), introduce numbers 11-20).  Move slowly from 3D objects to 2D objects to see if your child can still count things that he cannot hold in his hand (but can still point to).  After that, have kids try to simply look at small numbers of things and "know" that there are 2 balls (instead of having to touch and count each one individually).  

Most importantly, exude the idea to your child that math is fun! A positive attitude about math, whether real or feigned, from a parent goes a long way in the long run.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Sharing Isn't as Simple as it Used to Be....What do you do?

This is more about parenting and less about teaching and education, and I want to hear your thoughts. 

When did sharing and playdates get so complicated?
I've recently found myself in situations where my 2 year old is playing with friends' children, and I disagree with how the other childrens' parents discipline (or don't discipline).  For example, Katie (she's mine) was playing with a puzzle and her friend just up and took the puzzle from her.  Katie, nonagressive as she is, just looked baffled and shocked.  The friend's mom looked at me and said, "X is the 3rd child; she has learned how to fend for herself and get what she wants."  I'm sorry, what?  If the shoe had been on the other foot, I would have insisted Katie return the puzzle to X, along with an apology.  So, what do you do in a situation like that?

What's worse, what if your own child starts acting noticeably different after a playdate with such a friend?  Katie is really good about saying please, thank you, waiting her turn, etc., but after playing with some of my friends' kids, she seems to "forget" how to do these things.  Granted, it is a temporary amnesia, but I don't like it (enough so that I have considered not allowing Katie to play with these kids on a regular basis).  [Yes, I know this sounds really over-the-top, so keep me in check here].

I guess the bottom line question it OK to discipline someone else's kids?  I feel like it's not really my place to talk to other parents' kids about sharing, but I don't want to give my own daughter the impression that it's OK, either.  I think I can honestly say that I'd want the other parent to warmly, but sternly correct my child if she were the one who was not sharing/hitting, etc.  I'm not fooling myself into thinking Katie hasn't done some of these things on occasion; I just think I'm usually there to correct her on the spot.

As a teacher, I was able to be unbiased, so I could correct kids without thinking twice about it.  But now that it's my own child and someone else's, I'm stuck. 

Thanks for sharing! I'm dying to hear how you handle these situations!