The ability to count undoubtedly remains one of the fundamentals of early learning and is an important skill for children to learn before starting their first year of school.
A study by researcher Louis Manfra from the University of Missouri suggested that teaching pre-schoolers to count, better prepares them for success in maths once they start school and found that children who could recite and count to 20 in preschool had the highest maths score in first grade.
So, what are some ways to teach counting at an early age?
Luckily, there are loads of easy and fun ways to practice counting using a variety of simple materials and activities in different ways. Blocks, bouncing balls, abacus, rhythmic or singing counting, musical chairs, dance steps, cutting up food and counting the portions and colours, count the number of buttons as you do up a shirt. The ideas are endless once you get started.
If we think about some of the most famous ‘counters’ in history, look no further than The Count from Sesame Street! He helped generations of children to count and always used a combination of objects, songs, language and visuals to help create an entire picture of counting.
Manfra also noted that when children are counting, they’re performing a more cognitive activity when they’re associating an object with a number to represent a quantity.
Cognitive development activities develop knowledge and problem-solving skills that help children think about and understand the world around them.
Learning through play
A tried and tested learning method for pre-schoolers and primary grades around the world, learning through play was developed by the German educator and the ‘father of kindergarten’ Friedrich Fröbel in the mid-1800s.
He called it kindergarten, or ‘children’s garden’ a name he came up with when he was walking in the woods.
Fröbel was the first to change the way people thought about childhood education and believed that children should have some education before starting school, which was not a popular belief at the time, but not through formal lessons and testing. He designed things like balls, wooden blocks, tiles, sticks and rings to demonstrate that children learn by playing.
He called these items ‘gifts’ with the idea that if they were gifts instead of ‘supplies’, children would be more receptive to learning.
Fröbel was also the first to recognise that significant brain development occurs between birth and age 3 and he created songs and games for mothers to use with their infants. His methods inspired other well-known educators including Montessori and Steiner.
Music is a great tool to support maths education that can be used during pre-school and beyond. Refer to our blog post “How music can help teach fractions”.
ORIGO Education has a range of classroom resources including Transparent Counters which are circular, plastic, transparent circles designed for use with overhead projectors, in games, and in counting, sorting, grouping, and trading activities. To find out more and purchase online, go to ORIGO Classroom Resources.