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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Activity: Egg Carton Counters

I was in charge of teaching a math lesson for my daughter's educational toddler school. We made egg carton counters to focus on number recognition and counting. This is a very easy, inexpensive way to work on numbers with your child. Below, I describe five different activities you can do with your child to work on different aspects of number. Today we focused on the first three: recognizing and naming the number, counting up to a specific number, and learning what each number represents. The other two are more advanced, teaching the concepts of addition and subtraction.

Label the compartments of an egg carton with the numbers 1-12 in order.
I made little number cards (2.5"x1.75") out of cardstock and had each number on one card. I got all fancy and pulled out my Cricut machine to ink the numbers on. But you could just write them on scraps of paper if you didn't want to put that much effort into it. Anyway, there are several different activities you can do with these!

#1: Number recognition - teaches them to recognize the numbers out of sequence
I had my daughter randomly choose a number card, then I would ask her what number it was. She knew some of them. If she got it right I would say, "That's right! That's 2!" or whatever number it was. If she got it wrong or didn't answer at all, I would say, "That's 9. Can you say 'nine'?" Then I'd say "Okay, where does 9 go?" And she would find the spot. She likes pairing things up with their match, so this was probably her favorite part.

#2: Simple Counting - teaches them to count in sequence
I forgot to take a picture of this one, but this is what you do. You have the child select a number card, and you can repeat the steps for the number recognition activity. Once they put the number card in the corresponding compartment, you help them count up to it using the counters. We used Cheerios, which proved a little too distracting for some of the kids, but I was worried about them trying to eat beads or stick beans up their noses. Anyway, any small item will do. Then starting with the first compartment, you put one counter in each compartment -- counting out loud -- until you finally put one where the number card is. So your child picks 4, you have them say the number and put it in compartment #4. Then help them put in one Cheerio at a time as you count "1... 2... 3... 4!" Hopefully they count along with you.

#3: Number Values - teaches them what each number represents
Start the same way as before, by letting the child pick a number card. Then find the corresponding compartment and put that many counters in it. So if your child picks 5, you help them find the compartment labeled 5 and count out loud as you place five Cheerios (or other small item) into it. This helps them to see the number written, hear its name, and see that it represents a certain amount of things. You can leave the counters in the compartment as your child picks a new card, until they have gone through all 12.

#4: Addition (Advanced)
As your child becomes more familiar with numbers, you can use these to begin teaching them the concepts of addition and subtraction. For addition, set two small piles in front of them. Have them count how many Cheerios are in each pile. Let's say one pile has two and the other has four. You say, "We have two, and we have four. What is two plus four?" Then using the method described in Activity #2, use the compartments to count up to 6. Then reinforce, "Two plus four is six!"

#5: Subtraction (Advanced)
For subtraction, start with the counters already in the compartments. So let's say we start with six. Say "We have six Cheerios! What happens if we take away two? What is six minus two?" Take the counter from compartment 6 and sit it in front of the child while saying "One." Then take the counter from compartment 5 and add it to the pile while saying "Two!" Then explain "We took away two. How many are left?" Now help the child count the remaining four Cheerios. Reinforce: "We had six. We took away two. Now there are four. Six minus two is four!"

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