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How to Teach Your Child Cardinality & Counting

When a child reachescardinality in number sense development they understand that each number represents a quantity, and that whatever number you stop counting at is the quantity of the entire set. It also refers to the idea that the child realizes each number means a specific amount; no matter what you do to the objects in the set to rearrange them there is still the same amount of objects. Cardinality, much like one to one correspondence, must be taught.

Ways to teach cardinality :

Modeling: As with most concepts, whether you are teaching your child math, manners, or life skills, modeling is a great way to teach them without them realizing you are teaching them. You are simply showing them the skill you want them to acquire. Here are some simple ways you can model the skill of counting, more specifically cardinality, throughout the day.

1. Count items on your child.

“Wow, Elizabeth, you have beautiful bracelets on today. Let’s count how many you have!”

“Connor you have a lot of buttons on your shirt! I wonder how many you have. Let’s count your buttons.”

2. Count blocks and/or toys.

“Look at that tall tower you built! Let’s see how many blocks you used.”

3. Count while doing household chores.

“Oops, I forgot to set out napkins. Can you help me count how many napkins we need for each person in our family? Let’s count how many people we have in our family.”

The opportunities to count throughout the day are truly endless. If you make your child count all the time they will certainly get bored with it. Don’t make them count the blocks on every single tower they build, nor each accessory they have on their body. Just sprinkle counting opportunities throughout the day at unexpected times. Make it fun and they will jump right in.

Play games!

1. Board games such as candy Land, Chutes & Ladders, Hi Ho Cherry-O, etc. are all great games to play with your preschooler for many reasons, and counting is no exception. These games all have a dice or spinner where the child must count the dots and then move their game piece X amount of spots, or in the case of Hi Ho Cherry-O place X amount of pieces of fruit in the tree.

2. Create your own game using a deck of cards. Pull out the number cards from a deck of cards and shuffle them. Choose something your child loves to play with. If they really love dogs grab their favorite stuffed animal. Then grab a handful of something to use as dog treats. Your child will draw a card from the deck. If they are still working on recognizing their numbers then tell them the number they drew. They will “feed” the dog X amount of treats. Clear out the treats and have the draw another number. This game can be created with any toy that the love! If they like cars then grab a big pile of cars and a cardboard box. The number on the car indicates how many cars get parked in the “garage.” Truly, any toy will work for this type of game! The point is to get them counting.

Working on the concept of cardinality can be naturally embedded throughout the day. What child doesn't love to spend time with their family playing a game? You get to spend quality time with them plus as a bonus work on math skills, now that is a win-win situation!

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Content copyright © 2013 by Amy Tradewell. All rights reserved.
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