After teaching elementary and middle-school math for a decade, I became a different kind of teacher, thanks to COVID-19: a homeschool teacher to a kindergartener and a preschooler.
While I am a big proponent of Montessori-style child-led learning, let’s just say that my kids — like most kids — love to learn. They lead explorations into numbers every day, all the time. If your kids don’t lead you into numbers, no worries. Life gives you numbers: How many apples did we buy at the store? How many apples did we eat today? I wonder how many green crayons you have. We need two cups of sugar in these cookies. We need to set a timer for 15 minutes for the cookies to bake; we can watch the timer count down. Let’s count how many times we jump on the trampoline.
A lot of great active ideas like these can be found in Wild Math ($30). The curriculum provides many, many ways you can learn outdoors and learn while moving for Kindergarten through 5th grade (sold individually by grade level). Let’s face it: The littlest kids are not designed to sit down indoors.
Gameschooling is a fancy term for learning through playing games. Everybody is having fun (hopefully) while some young humans are unconsciously learning. My favorite math game for preschool and kindergarten is Tiny Polka Dot. Through fun play, the deck builds a very sense of number recognition (subitizing using dice and ten frame) as well as cardinality (counting each object once, one-to-one correspondence). There are instructions for a variety of games, ranging from age 3 to age 8. You can buy a deck (with instructions included) for $15 online.
We also play Uno ($6), which is great for matching color or number and learning how to read the written digits (like 1, 2, 3…).
The card game “Go Fish” ($3 for a traditional deck of cards) also gives us a real reason to practice reading digits, and these traditional playing cards provide the opportunity to count objects as well.
Sleeping Queens ($15) allows the opportunity to build addition equations. For example, if you have 3, 2, and 4, you cannot make an addition equation. If you have 3, 2, and 5, you can make an equation and discard all three cards to refresh your hand (which is really helpful for winning). Note: Your kid can play this game and win without doing any math. Ask me how I know. The kids love this game, especially since it was invented by a 6-year-old girl.
Of course, you can’t always be outside or actively doing things with your kids. You need some adult time to get stuff done. While we all wish our children would quietly play in their rooms without needing us for an hour here or there, you need screen time. I know. You know. We all know.
I’m going to tell you about some programs that I have experimented with thus far. Most of them have free 7-day trials. The prices below have all been rounded to the nearest dollar. Also, note that I am using an iPad mini 5th generation for the children’s use.
Hungry Caterpillar Play School: $10/mo. $50/yr. Includes various subjects. Math is one. Visuals like Eric Carle’s book. Calming and educational songs. Mesmerizing. Shapes, more/less, counting, small/medium/big, size/shape recognition. My daughters love to make the caterpillar into a butterfly and turn the seeds into flowers. Playing this game feels rewarding for its visuals and pleasing tones alone. This game builds a solid foundation, focusing on numbers under 5. It is firmly in preschool realm, but it is so, so solid that one could use it for the first half of kindergarten.
Canticos: $7/mo. $58/yr. A bilingual game. You can set it to primarily English or primarily Spanish, depending on your wishes. While there are many games, one of them is about numbers 1–3: counting the times you hit the pinata and the candies that come out of it. The child touches the pinata and the candies while the game counts for them. It is great for building one-to-one correspondence and lots of fun.
PRESCHOOL & KINDERGARTEN APPS
PBS Kids Games: Free. If you go to their website, you can see 59 math games. My daughter loved Mega Mall. In Mega Mall, she had to choose objects for her shopping cart from a list of colors and shapes. Then at the cashier stand, she had to pay using dollar bills after the cashier added the total for her. If she paid the wrong amount, it would give her feedback and a second chance. On the third time, it would support her in counting the bills accurately (e.g. $17 is one $10 bill and seven $1 bills).
Khan Academy Kids: Free. Adorable visuals. Really fun to play because the narrator is so encouraging and the animation so cute. Great user interface. Very intuitive for this age. Also, the child earns cute digital prizes, which she loves.
Homer: $5/mo. $60/yr. This app has reading and math. The math portion has a number of different titles. There are a dozen games: shape names, counting, size comparison, writing numbers, patterns, etc. Each math game feels like someone is quizzing the child repeatedly without an overarching purpose, aside from earning a gold star on the game. There are also five videos with good visuals, read aloud, and subtitles. The math feels like an add-on to a reading program. Although the app says ages 2–8, the math here is preschool or the first half of kindergarten.
We hope this information helps you. Feel free to contact us at sweetmath.rocks