Number sense is an important part of mathematics learning. Now, this is not what math is ALL about, however, despite what most people think when they hear the word MATH.

In the early years, children think they have a sense of ‘number’ when they simply count out loud, “1, 2, 3, 4, 5…” No true meaning is usually connected with these numbers. How do you know? Easy! Put out some Cheerios (or M&Ms or some other fun thing teachers call a ‘manipulative’) and ask your child to count them. Chances are the individual manipulative isn’t truly being ‘counted’ at all. Instead, your child is just using a rote chanting, sort of like singing the alphabet song.

What we want is what is called ‘one-to-one correspondence’ (or iteration). This is the lesson where you can make the connection between counting (singing the songs!) and pointing/touching each individual item and giving it its own 'name' or number.

Let's get things ready! For these math activities we will be using Cheerios although other manipulatives can also be used. Cheerios are inexpensive (one box will go a looooong way) and are low in sugar so are an excellent manipulative for young children. They are also small in size yet big enough for little fingers to manipulate AND, are often considered a special treat!

Children need ample opportunities to count object because without counting experiences, moving on to number operations can be quite a challenge. Having a good understanding of how to use one-to-one correspondence is key and will allow children to make necessary connections when it comes time to learn addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.

In this activity, the steps are simple:

1. Grab a small quantity of Cheerios (begin with three or four, working your way up to TEN)
2. Place them in front of your child
3. Say, "Let's see how many Cheerios we have! We'll point to them and count them."
4. Now, together, point and TOUCH each Cheerio together (both of you do this!) and count, "1, 2, 3, …"
5. After the last one has been counted, count them one at a time again as your child eats them!

Each time you start the activity all over, grab a different amount (or the same amount!) of Cheerios. Repeat the SAME STEPS each time. Routine is VERY important to Kindergartners! In fact, if you forget to 'do' a step, your child will more than likely remind you of the step you forgot! No eyeball rolling, please…This is SERIOUS business here.

Spend no more than five minutes with this activity every single day until your child is able to count up to ten Cheerios correctly, using the one-to-one correspondence concept.

Note: Another name for the concept of one-to-one correspondence is iteration

When you feel your child has mastered the concept of one-to-one correspondence, then it is time to move on to the next lesson where you will introduce an array. An array is a special way we organize objects to help with counting. It is a form of patterning and patterning is a key in mathematics!

Let's learn all about making that important connection with the Tens Frames…