Saturday, April 7, 2012

Math Skills Using an Old Pickle Jar

How to Practice Math With Your Preschooler in a Fun Way

My Dilemma
Hubby finished a jar of pickles the other day.  Is it just me or does it take forever to finish an entire jar of pickles?  Anyway, he knows about all the projects we've been doing lately so he jokingly asked me if I could find a use for his old pickle jar.  I immediately said of course I could!  When he left the room though, I became slightly concerned.  First of all, it still smelled a lot like pickles.  More specifically, it smelled like old pickles.  Eww.  Second, it's glass.  I suddenly had a premonition of the kids playing tug of war with it on the tile floor amidst lots of screaming and then CRASH!!  With this in mind, I put the pickle jar in the cabinet and several weeks went by without any ideas.  But then I heard Munchkin Girl counting and she kept skipping the number 9 and that gave me an idea for the smelly pickle jar.  We filled it up with colored Pom Poms.  Then we made a game out of it by guessing how many were in there...Munchkin Girl guessed 11.

counting, practice, kids, preschoolers,

Next, we pulled them out one by one and counted as they came out.  Munchkin Girl started organizing them by color without me even suggesting it.  She had them all in neat little piles and this just reinforced how much kids like to "sort" things.  I've seen it before, but I am always amazed by how true it really is. 

preschooler sorting, practice math, color practice

Then we cleaned up everything and did it over and over again.  I wasn't sure how much she would like this game, but she really enjoyed it.  We got silly while we counted and she giggled a lot.  I think we ended up doing it about five times before she got bored.  Now she finally doesn't skip 9 anymore when she counts!  Woot woot!  Even her little brother (2 years old) enjoys this game and does his version of counting "one, two thee, fiii!" and then puts everything into little piles.

So, why is it that children love to sort so much?  Susan Case is a former Kindergarten teacher and we have collaborated many times on various projects with my kids (In other words, I can't figure out what I'm doing and I run to her for help, and she gives me advice).  I asked her why kids like to sort so much and whether there was anything else I could do to reinforce this counting challenge Munchkin Girl has been having.  

Ms. Susan's Advice
Children can learn sorting at an early age. Some child development theorists think that young children spend 40% of their time seeking and working out mathematical concepts. When children learn to sort, they are learning skills that will lead them to patterning, which will help them learn to read. Provide opportunities for children to group objects by attributes - or by color, shape, size or texture. Use objects that are interesting to a child - perhaps some things picked up on a walk such as sticks, leaves and rocks - or sort leaves by their color or shape.

  • Color: beads, buttons, apples, colored paper, Pom Poms, pipe cleaners
  • Shape: pieces of paper cut into shapes, buttons, pipe cleaners, coins
  • Size: action figures, blocks, beenie babies, dolls
  • Texture: feathers, shells, rocks, toys
Children enjoy matching games using cards of their favorite characters or with objects real in their environment which increases their vocabulary. Another way to increase vocabulary is to compare objects such as same/different, few/many, short/long, heavy/light, green/blue. 

Sorting Game: What is Different? 
2 socks/1 book
3 apples/1orange
3 red legos/1green lego

The objective is provide opportunities for learning while making it enjoyable using objects that are interesting. Compliment children often for their accomplishments as they explore their ever expanding world.

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  1. Great post! My mom who has been a math teacher the last 30 years would love this. I love the creativity in doing this and it not only teaches but it is fun!

  2. Thanks for sharing this! It's a creative way to teach counting and attributes of materials to kids.

  3. OMG OMG OMG I actually do this one...does that make me a crafty mom yet?