Preschool students learn math concepts with hands-on activities that simulate real-world math situations. You can boost that understanding by including lots of math tools and toys in the classroom. Use the items during math learning time and during free play or center time.
Counters are a basic math tool for the preschool classroom. Interlocking cubes work well because the kids can link them together for measuring and patterning. Small plastic objects, such as plastic bears, also work as counters. The kids can use the counters to practice one-to-one correspondence. They can also put the counters end-to-end to measure an object. For example, they might place blocks along a pencil to find out that it is eight blocks long.
Identifying basic shapes is another math concept at the preschool level. Give the kids practice with shape tiles. You can get small plastic shapes to use or make your own. Cut out several different shapes from construction paper. Laminate the shapes so they hold up well. Kids can use the shapes to make patterns or designs.
Set up a measuring center with lots of different measurement tools. A balance scale is one option. Kids can place objects on either side to compare weights. You can also include a regular scale. Put out measuring cups and containers of different sizes. These tools work well at the sensory table. Kids can scoop up the material in the sensory table and pour it into another container. This helps them learn about comparisons.
Clocks and Money
Toy clocks give preschoolers a chance to explore the idea of time. While they are likely too young to really tell time, they can still play with the clocks to get a sense of the numbers on the face and how the hands work. Play money is another real-world connection to make in the preschool classroom. Again, counting money is likely more advanced than preschool, but the kids can start exploring how money looks and pretending to use it.
Include a set of shape blocks in an activity center. The kids can build and play with the blocks however they want. The block sets usually include lots of different shapes and colors. Even if they don’t specifically focus on those features, they are exposed to them as they play.
Shape and Pattern Cards
A center idea is to create shape or pattern cards that the kids recreate. You might show an A-B pattern on the card, for example. The kids recreate the part of the pattern showing and them continue the pattern. Shape cards work in a similar way. Make a specific shape on the card. The kids place small objects along the shape outline to recreate it themselves.