April 4, 2022 / Blog
Using Preschool Shapes to Build Math Skills
Preschool shapes are ideal building blocks for learning math skills – you can find shapes everywhere!
Young children understand preschool shapes and recognize the differences between them from infancy. In preschool environments the knowledge gained from recognizing and learning names of shapes, comparing them, and understanding how they are used builds the skills that help them with reading, writing and math.
A strong math foundation is built in sequence. One developmentally appropriate skill leads to the next as children learn math concepts and apply their knowledge through play.
Math concepts for preschool learners
1 – Attributes
Understanding attributes is the base of a solid math foundation. As they play, children gain a familiarity with different attributes such as preschool shapes, size, color, texture, or weight. They can arrange objects to be on, in, behind, open or closed.
A wedge of watermelon has many attributes to discuss. “What shape is this piece of watermelon? What colors do you see? How many seeds can you count? What shape are the seeds? Is the watermelon wet or dry?”
2 – Classification
Build on the concept of attributes by introducing sorting challenges. Preschool shapes with different attributes can be categorized to learn classification. Introduce how grouping items will result in some things that do belong and others that do not belong. How are things alike? How are they different?
Buttons with a variety of shapes, colors and sizes are a fun way to classify objects using attributes. Start with one attribute at a time and then try sorting by using multiple attributes. “First, gather all the RED buttons. Now, group all the RED TRIANGLES together. Finally, let’s put all the RED TRIANGLES in the SQUARE basket!”
3 – Patterns
Patterns emerge in play once children understand attributes and classification. Using these concepts, children can create patterns with preschool shapes (square, circle, square, circle) and apply the concept to the world around them.
4 – One-to-one
As they recognize patterns, children will notice and understand the concept of one-to-one. They can see that the five fingers on one hand matches the five fingers of their hand – or the hand of a friend!
They can categorize items and determine whether the groups are even or uneven. “There are five red triangles and two blue triangles. Are these preschool shapes even? Which one has more? How can we make them even?”
5 – Order
One-to-one correspondence comprehension leads to ordering and sequencing sets. This is all about “what comes next?” and how children can predict outcomes.
Pretending to shop is a great way to teach ordering. “I want to buy three triangle blocks. I put them in my basket. What comes next? What happens after I pay?”
Teaching children to view items from left to right is a sequence that informs the basic understanding of reading words from left to right. Asking children to name the preschool shapes from left to right will give them practice in ordering and sequencing.
6 – Numeration
Ultimately, children learn the concept of “manyness” of numbers. Learning numbers is not just being able to memorize a count from 1 to 100. It’s all about understanding the “how-many-ness” of a number. The “five-ness” of a five.
Learning + Play = Fun!
An important tip: keep it interesting! Children love play that involves cause and effect – like learning that round things roll. Sorting pieces of candy is more interesting than sorting dots on a piece of paper. These concepts will be learned and built upon as they grow when the instruction is fun and given in a developmentally appropriate sequence.