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Moving to Math By Dr Pam Schiller


For young children the understanding of math unfolds in a developmental sequence. For example, children must first develop the vocabulary for attributes and spatial relationships before they are able to readily sort and classify materials. They must be able to classify materials (determine likenesses and differences) before they are able to make patterns which are constructed on the basis of likenesses and differences. The following activities are presented in a developmental sequence that assists children in gaining understanding of new concepts based on their understanding of previously mastered skills and concepts.


Math Vocabulary



Provide clothing items, including scarves, hats, and costume jewelry in the home making center. Encourage the children to explore and recognize such attributes as size, color, shape, texture and utility.


Spatial Relationships

Provide opportunities for children to build with blocks and boxes. Have them describe their creations and tell how they build them.


Math Readiness



Fill re-sealable plastic bags with five random items, i.e., a crayon, a button, a penny, a paper clip and a rubber band or a straw, a key, a pencil, a bottle cap and a leaf. Ask children to classify the items into categories of “things that are” and “things that are not.” For example, using the first set of suggested objects, you might have the items divided into “things that write” (crayon) and “things that do not” (penny, paper clip, rubber band and penny) or perhaps into “things that are round” (button, penny) and “things that are not” (paper clip, crayon, rubber band).



Make patterns using the children. Ask children to form a line. Arrange them in a series of patterns, i.e., one child facing forward the next child facing backwards, one child sitting the next one standing, one child with hands up the next with hands down and so on.


One-to-One Correspondence

Provide a set of nuts and bolts. Ask children to connect the nuts and bolts. Discuss the one-to-one correspondence (one bolt for every nut and one nut for every bolt). Point out that the sets of bolts are equal to the set of nuts. Remove a couple of nuts and ask the children to again connect nuts and bolts. When they are left with two extra bolts, point out that the sets are unequal. There are more bolts than there are nuts.


Order and Sequence

Provide play dough. Ask children to first roll balls that can be arranged in a sequence of small to large. Ask them next to roll snakes and arrange the snakes in a sequence of longest to shortest.


Number Concepts


Numeral Recognition

Print numerals 1-5 on index cards. Provide tempera paint. Encourage children to make fingerprints over the outlines of the numerals.                                      


Number Concepts (number families/sets)

Make Number Bags for numbers three to six. Draw a line down the middle of four re-sealable plastic bags leaving about one inch at the bottom of each bag. In the one inch space print a numeral on each bag starting with three and ending with six. Place counters in each bag to correspond with the numeral printed on that bag. Show children how to move the counters on either side of the line to create set combinations. Start with the number three and allow enough practice for children to internalize the concept that three is three no matter what the combination or configuration of its members.



            Place six carpet squares on the floor a few inches apart. Have a volunteer

walk the squares counting each square as they move from one square to the next.


Number Sentences

Give the children five nickels. Have a child drop the five nickels onto a paper plate and then make up a number sentence that describes the position in which the nickels land. For example, “four nickels have landed on heads and one has landed on tails.”


Moving to Math CD offers songs and movement activities for each skill on the developmental continuum.


Previous Tips

•  Take a Movement Break and Switch On Your Brain - with RONNO!
   Activity Tips (10/06) - RONNO

•  Ways to Teach Children Through Music and Movement
   Activity Tips - RONNO

•  Alliteration
   Activity Tips (2/06) - Pam Schiller, Ph.D.

•  A Case for Laughing Giggling and Having Fun 
   Activity Tips (11/05) - Pam Schiller, Ph.D.

•  Connecting Music and Literacy
   Activity Tips (8/05) - Pam Schiller, Ph.D.

•  The Learning Station: Teaching with Songs in Your Heart
   Activity Tips (7/04) - Laurie Monopoli

•  Bean Bag
   Activity Tips (3/04) - Christina Chapman

•  Activities to Integrate Music and Language Arts
   Activity Tips (8/03) - Cindy H. Clark, MMed, MT-BC

Activity Tips for Special Needs and Young Children