Every child develops their number sense and number skills at a different rate depending on how innately they are wired and by what they have been exposed to in the early years. Foundation phase teachers can tell a child has has had good number-stimulation at home by their level of confidence when the class does number activities.
At home, at preschool and in the early years of primary school children should be using plenty of apparatus to help them to understand numbers, such as: counting cubes, blocks, beads, buttons, beans, an abacus, number lines and so much more. Real objects help a child to understand quantity in the concrete sense which makes it easier to translate into abstract concepts as they progress such as substituting a counter for a real object and, finally, a number.
While children learn to count in the preschool years, they are only taught how to formally write the numbers 1 – 10 in grade 1. When they learn to count there are various levels of counting that many parents are unaware of.
Initially they count all which means that if you give them objects to count they will always start at number one. If they have five sweets that they have counted and you give them another two, they will start counting from the beginning again. Encourage your child to touch every object that they count.
Around grade one they should start being able to count on. In other words, when you give them the extra sweets in the example above, they don’t have to start counting from one, they remember they ended on five and can just carry on from there. They can hold a number in their head and then add to it.
From grade two children start learning about bonds of 10 in earnest.
Bonds of ten
This is a very important milestone in a child’s number development. Teachers spend a lot of time helping children to grasp the fact that the number ten can be made up in a variety of ways. Ten is a manageable chunk that becomes very useful as a child progresses to higher levels of maths. It helps them to develop nimble number problem solving skills.
These are usually introduced in grade 3 after learning how to count in twos, threes, fours etc, as the foundation. Ultimately, once the concrete side of multiplication tables is understood, learning by rote enables learners to speed up their ability to do mental arithmetic.
Have fun with numbers
At whatever stage a child is at with their number development, parents need to ensure that they have fun with numbers. Confidence goes a long way to developing proficiency and even a love of numbers and maths. For some fun ideas of how to help your child develop their number sense at home, click here for my blog: A child’s number sense starts at home
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