Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Preschool Math, Our Plan

quiz Sometimes the homeschool blogging world is a great help, and sometimes it becomes something else… a place where we compare our children to others.  And, I think a bit unrealistically, it seems everyone else’s child knows more than “my” child.

M is not a great counter.  This strikes me and others as somewhat odd since he has the mind of a little engineer and/or scientist.  But he can only count to 13 consistently; he tries to count to 20, and then if he means a larger number he just says “forty-eighty-ninety”. :)  He is a bright boy and he’s interested in many things – like how the world and everything in it works.  Evidently, he just can’t be bothered with something small like learning numbers right now. ;)

If I thought he needed to know how to count to 100 by the time he was 4 I’d be driving myself and him crazy.  I’m perfectly fine with his limitations and don’t worry about it (not that I haven’t been tempted to push him just a little in this area after reading other blogs), but I know others out there do worry about these things.  There are mothers who read our blogs, and being wonderful mommies who want the best for their child, start wondering what they should be doing.  I know this because occasionally I get an email from a worried mom asking me what she needs to do.  I am so thankful in those cases that I have a normal, average boy and can offer her a little encouragement and reassurance.  Learning at this age should be all about FUN.  *In the middle of drafting this post, my friend Monica sent me a link to a great article about just this – keeping it simple!  It’s well worth the read.

The truth is a 4 year old doesn’t really need to count that high, or read on his own, or any other advanced academic skill.  M is not out looking for a job or even doing elementary homework yet.  By the time he needs a particular skill he will have it, I’m sure of it.  He’s busy learning about what interests him in the meantime, and there is nothing that will spur on learning like a genuine interest in something.

That said, I’ve noticed in the past 2 weeks that he is beginning to take a real interest in counting to higher numbers.  His dot-to-dot book, which he adores, has helped grow this interest.  Our calendar helps a bit too.  And nothing, absolutely nothing, has helped spur that interest on more than the little digital watch he got at Burger King.  Oh goodness, this kid wants to know what that watch says every minute of every day.  9:08 is one thing, but what in the world is 12:35?  He simply has to know. :)

We’ve just started doing “school” this week and I plan on using Montessori bead bars and number boards to aid in counting and other math skills.  I am by no means any kind of expert on Montessori.  I am just beginning to learn a little bit about Montessori.  My interest began when looking for ways to further M’s religious education, in fact… and here we are talking about math. :)  I think this will be a good journey for both M and I!

Anyway, for those of you who are interested, a great explanation of a simple Montessori bead bar exercise is here.  You’ll note the recommended age for beginning this work is 4.5Whew!

I made my own bead bars, using pipe cleaners and pony beads.  Simply twist a pipecleaner at one end, making a little loop.  Then slide on your pony beads.  Each number has a different color – 1 is red, 2 is green, etc.  After sliding on the appropriate color and number of beads, cut your pipecleaner, leaving a little bit at the end to twist into another loop.  So far I’ve made 2 of each bar from 1 to 9, and 20 golden (in this case, clear with gold glitter) 10-bead bars.   bead bars This should get us pretty far in our lessons.  These took about an hour to make one afternoon.  I’ve also made my own number cards and teen board, and then found them already online in a printable version on this site. Go to the middle of the page to find the link for printing Teen and Ten boards.

I will not try to explain the procedures for the lessons with the number cards and the boards, but if you are interested, I have found great videos here, here, and here.    

Have a beautiful day! :)



  1. Great post! You make a good point, it seems the counting comes a little later for many children. While Selena does count to 25 sometimes 30 she still gets stuck on the 15, but hey that is OK. When you stop and think about it our world is based on communication, words so with that said numbers are generally late to come. They learn them though in their own time, when they are ready and it makes sense to them.

  2. Great post! I hope lots of mommies read it. Just wanted to let you know that I mentioned your blog name in my recent post. I hope you stop by and vote in my poll.

  3. Our daughter has a creative mind and loves to make up her own math problems. Counting is rote memory and she sometimes forgets the 30, 40, 50, etc. even though she can count by 10's with no problem. I never worried too much about it. With more exposure, she will eventually learn it. She just hasn't had enough need to learn them. But recently, we've been looking at thermometers and all of a sudden, she read the numbers without a problem. I think it's all interest based. If they are interested, they will learn it. If not, they are interested in other things during the time being. I think of how babies vary in what they focus on. One toddler will focus on walking or running and another will focus on verbal skills. If we give each child room to choose their interests, I believe each child will thrive. But it is always at their time table, not ours. In the past, I mentioned it on my blog but the American system of naming numbers make it harder to remember numbers and manipulate them than in other countries. We have more to work through so I don't think any of us should be hard on ourselves!

    I enjoy your post because I've been struggling with this these days...the whole idea of parental pressure and what's appropriate for kids. There's a general consensus that too much academics at an early age is not beneficial and yet should you not teach if they are interested and ready? I probably should write a post on it once I sort out my own thoughts. Thanks for bringing this topic up!

  4. I think you have a great attitude! All children learn different things at different paces. Sometimes my son seems very advanced in things like reading and counting, but hey, he still needs me to fall asleep almost every night, laying next to him, and he's 2 1/2... I've seen kids his age who are dribbling around the soccer field like Pele, and he cries if we suggest he get the ball when there are other kids around, because he doesn't like taking it from them...I still spoon almost every bite he eats into his mouth because otherwise he'd only eat 2 forkfuls and lose interest. Not trying to pick at my son's faults, but my point is just that they are all different kids, and all perfect. :) Your post is a nice reminder not to compare/compete.

  5. Thanks for sharing this post. Your bead bars are so simple,I will have to make some. I will also be looking at the links your shared regarding the procedures.

    Tabitha is able to count to 20, but we have 16 stairs that we have counted with the girls every day, at least 2 times a day, for 3 years now. What impressed me was the fact that she can recognize numbers into the 20's, nothing I sat down and taught her, just checked one day at a football game, she was telling us the numbers on the seats! So definitely looking into things that can challenge her.

  6. Meh, my boys are 5 and still struggle with counting, but they can tell you all about the minotaur. It's all in what they're interested in.

  7. What a coincidence that I shared that article as you were writing this!

    I don't have this book, but I've heard it's good: "Family Math for Young Children.". It sounds like it's filled with all sorts of games that your little scientist might enjoy! I might get it when my kids are older. It also soundsmore laid back.

    Oh, and my engineer husband sometimes gets his arithmetic wrong! :)

  8. Great post Nicole. :-)

    I feel this pressure all of the time, but have learned to not worry about what others are doing (to a certain extent blogs aren't 100% real anyway).

    My 6 year old is only now diligently working on letter sounds. She just had absolutely no interest before and so I feel like for us we are doing things on the blog that most bloggers do with 3 and 4 year olds.

    I guess for us though we won't need to repeat the activities to cover missed 'sounds', next year!

    I think, as you are suggesting (and joyful learner did in a comment), as long as we are following the child then it will all work out, regardless of their age. :)

  9. Great post! I am with you.. I think we all do the compare thing at some point or another! I also think they learn so differently. A perfect example is Sammy learned all of his letters and their sounds.. he did this "early" however, it was an interest to him and no prompting on our part. Just something he wanted to know. He however at that point couldn't count at all, didn't know most of his colors and the only "shape" he knew was O (the letter). They all learn and grow at different times and you are right.. when they are having fun they will learn!


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