Monday, August 9, 2010


This is a special article on the blog, just for parents of all those youngsters I met at Northbrook Days and who I hope will become Tutoring Resources students in 8 years or so from now. Usually I’m totally focused on the preteen to adult ages. I like working with kids old enough to question a teacher, even challenge the teacher’s knowledge.

But Math education starts long before Middle School and parents are the first and most influential teachers that every child can have. So here are a few things to do before students get into Preschool.

NUMERACY: This is the internal understanding of numbers. It involves number order, recognition of number symbols, and the one-to-one relationship of counting. Using the Tutoring Resources Math Cards distributed at our booth, select a few of the positive numbers, say 1 through 5 for the youngest kids and up to 10 as a child progresses. Lay them out on the table in numeric order.

Activity #1: (for ages as young as 2) Point to each number in order and say it’s name. Show the child how to point to the letters as you say their names. Ask the child to repeat the numbers after you’ve said them, starting with one at a time and progressing to the whole list at once. Eventually, have the student name the cards without help.

Activity #2: Using the same numbers that have been practiced in Activity #1, ask the child to point out a certain number, first with numbers laid out in order and then with cards randomly spread on the table.

Activity #3: Using manipulatives (navy beans, candy pieces, dots....something large enough that the child can pick it up without much discomfort), demonstrate the concept of each number by laying one item on the #1 card, 2 items on the #2 card, etc. As a second step, put the manipulatives in one central location (like a dish) and demonstrate that each number is the previous number with one more added. Help the child “count” with you, identify the number verbally and pick out the card with that number on it. Evenutally, have the child lay out the right amount of manipulatives to correspond with a random number that you pick from your deck.

Activity #4: Start “counting” stuff.....lots of stuff. Count the number of chairs at the dinner table, the number of plates or forks while setting the table, the number of shoes in daddy’s closet, the number of winter coats in the front hall, the number of toy cars or stuffed animals or Barbie doll dresses. Count, count, count until it becomes “natural to count” 1-2-3... These are the “natural counting numbers” that the student will use in kindergarten and first grade and which are the first group of “Real Numbers” as described in Pre-algebra. Imagine! Your 3 year old is already learning one of the Pre-algebra concepts!!

OTHER RESOURCES: The library has numerous number books with themes that may be stimulating to your child -- animals, characters, etc. There are puzzles that reinforce the shapes of numbers; I just found one at the one-dollar store.

Repetition and exposure are the keys to teaching NUMERACY, the vitally important first step in the understanding and love of math. It is my goal that your child have FUN with numbers and develop a sense of accomplishment and competence that will spur him or her to success in Math class. To receive a packet containing the Tutoring Resources Math Cards, dice, dots, and sample games for first grade through sixth, contact your local Tutoring Resources center in Barrington or Northbrook. Visit the website at for contact information.

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