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How Can I Build Number Sense in my Child?

Number sense is the ability to understand math concepts.  Children with strong number sense understand how to develop useful math strategies for adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing, and problem-solving. It is important for children to have strong number sense so that they can think fluently and deeply about numbers and number concepts. Children with strong numbers sense have a solid foundation on which to build more difficult and abstract math concepts in the older grades.

There are many ways in which you can help your child develop number sense. 

1. Practice counting.  Count how many petals a flower has, how many times the dog barks, count pennies, or count cars that drive by on a long road trip. 

2. Practice counting forward and backward.

3. Talk about more, less, and equal to.  Capitalize on opportunities to have these conversations at home, in the store, while eating, and while playing.  Numbers and number concepts are all around us!

4. Talk about ways to decompose numbers.  Ask your child to model this with toys, food, or other small objects.

5. Talk about and show examples of numbers and simple fractions – halves, thirds, fourths, etc. 

6. Practice math facts.

7. Practice estimation.  Estimate how many pretzels are on a plate, how many steps to the front door, or how many coins are in a pile.  Then, figure out the exact number and compare the two. 

8. Play math games. There are many games that incorporate math concepts.  Any game that requires dice, spinning a number spinner, or counting spaces is a great way (and fun) to develop number sense. 

This is by no means an exhaustive list. Developing number sense is much like developing phonological awareness and reading decoding skills – practice, practice, practice.  The more you practice, the better and stronger that mathematical foundation will be.

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