I'm afraid I've never liked math very much (much to my engineer father's chagrin). Furthermore, my aptitude has tended to follow my interest. Standardized test results always showed me to be a student very much skewed toward the verbal end of things.
It's not my particular desire to have my children inherit this math aversion, but lately I've realized that my educational activities with M are starting to show the same imbalance (a little girl who is starting to work on reading sentences probably should not be struggling to recognize the number 4! :-)
So... I set my mind to think of good math activities, but try as I might, I kept coming up blank! It seems that perhaps I am lacking in the math creativity department as well (I guess I never realized that this was its own department!). I mentioned my frustration to R one evening, and without missing a beat he came up with this activity.
I was impressed. Not only is the activity fun for M, but once we tried it out, I realized that it was exactly the right next step for M's level of math understanding. R said that after number recognition and counting, the next step should be understanding the concept of discrete quantities. For example, 3 cats and 1 dog.
I printed and cut out 10 small pictures of a cat and 10 small pictures of a dog. I also made up a worksheet that had about 5 blank problems that looked like this:
+ ______ Dogs
I spread out in front of M a few of each kind of animal. First I asked her to count the number of cats. We wrote down her answer. Then the number of dogs, and I wrote the number in the blank. Then I asked her to count all of the animals and recorded the answer. At the end of each problem I would say in an interested voice, "Huh! Well then, I guess ____ + ____equals _____!" and she would nod.
I don't know how many times we will have to do this activity for the concept to begin to really sink in, but I have a good feeling about its effectiveness.
I've been thinking about investing in an abacus. Have any of you used one with your little ones? Do you have any other suggestions for early math activities? I'd love to hear them- because I still draw a complete blank when trying to think of math ideas! :-)