Inside: What is number sense and how can you help your child develop a strong number sense in Math?
As the parent of a young child, you might wonder “How can I set up my child for success in math?” In my experience, parents often believe if they can get their child to count to 20 or 100, their child now has the skills to move onto more difficult topics.
However, a solid foundation in math goes far beyond counting.
What is Number Sense in Math?
The ability to intuitively understand numbers and how they relate to each other make up our number sense. Our number sense allows us to think about numbers flexibly and fluently. It gives us the tools we need to creatively manipulate numbers in different ways to solve problems.
Strong number sense in Math
A child with a strong number sense can demonstrate different ways to break up the number 6 into two groups like 5 and 1 or 4 and 2. They understand concepts such as 8 is 1 more than 7, or that 2 is closer to 0 than 3.
Poor number sense in Math
A child with poor number sense might only think of 6 as an answer to a problem like 5 + 1. This can happen when procedural steps are heavily emphasized.
It’s not that the first child is more intelligent than the second child. They simply have more tools to work with when it comes to thinking about numbers and how they can be manipulated.
3 activities to develop a strong number sense in Math
Fear not! You do not have to have a fancy math background to help your child develop a strong number sense. The best way for them to have an intuitive understanding of numbers is through play with hands-on activities and learning from mistakes.
Here are three simple activities you can do with your child to help them develop their number sense in Math.
Number Sense Activity 1: How many pennies?
- Draw different lines of different lengths and have your child estimate how many pennies would fit on each line. Make sure to write down the estimate.
- Next, have your child place the pennies on the line to see how many pennies are actually needed and write down that number too. Chances are their next estimate will be closer to the actual number of pennies that fit on the next line.
Number Sense Activity 2: Know your number line
- Draw a number line from 0 to 10 by marking off intervals of equal length and writing the corresponding numbers underneath each marking.
- Ask your child these questions:
- How far is 1 away from 3?
- Can you find two numbers that are five spaces apart?
- Can you find two numbers that are the same distance from 7? They can use the distance between the numbers as a means for establishing how numbers are related to each other.
Number Sense Activity 3: Make and break 5
- Grab two bowls and five blocks. One of the bowls should have all five blocks and the other should have none.
- Ask your child to move one block into the empty bowl and tell you what they notice. You want them to see how five blocks can be split into two groups of four and one but as a total, you still have five blocks.
- Next, move over another block so you have a group of three and a group of two. Ask them to describe the pattern they notice or see if they can predict what to do next.
- Have them repeat this step until the first bowl is empty and the second bowl has all five blocks.
- The conversations you have with your child are just as important as the activity!
Related: Try more hands-on math activities with multilink cubes.
Check out this number sense video
- In this video, I share how you can teach number sense to preschoolers and get a free number sense printable.
Providing your child with strategic and intentional learning experiences can fundamentally change how your child perceives math. Spending just a few minutes a day a couple of times a week with these types of activities can help them develop their number sense and confidence to embrace mathematical challenges.