Math and number awareness is the foundation for learning more advanced math concepts.
Classification is putting together things that are the same. Your child demonstrates early classification skills by sorting items based on how they look, sound, and feel.
Your child is aware that things belong together because of what the object does or how objects are used. For example, when your child thinks about a birthday cake he will also think about having candles with the cake to celebrate. This is because both items are used when celebrating a birthday, even though a cake and candles do not look alike. This is classification.
Your child is able to identify when there is one object as well as when there is more than one object; however, while your child understands that there is more than one cracker on his plate, he will not yet be able to tell you if there are four or six crackers on that plate.
Your child can count up to three and maybe higher but not yet in the correct order. Your child will most likely count items in groups larger than two like this: “One, two, three, five, seven...” This is because your child understands through the skill of one-to-one correspondence that he can assign only one number to one object; however, he does not yet understand that the number he is assigning is related to the quantities of objects that he is naming.
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Classifying skills are easy to support by doing activities as in the example with Eric, in which Dad uses simple materials found around the home, which Eric sees every day in his environment, or by helping the child see how items can be classified based upon how they are used, as in the example of the birthday cake. Classifying objects is an important part of developing early math skills because it will help your child identify and describe relationships between objects. Your child’s ability to classify objects he is playing with supports math skills such as understanding one-to-one correspondence.
It is important that your child can touch the items while counting so that each item represents a number. Children learn math skills best through hands-on play and the use of concrete examples using blocks, toys, or other household items. Understanding number relationships and the purpose of numbers in counting leads your child to later be able to recognize patterns in materials and objects around him as well as patterns in his daily routine, such as the notion that naptime comes after lunch time. Patterns, routines, daily activities all lead to building math skills.
Counting skills are best learned when the child has an opportunity to touch and feel, sort and categorize objects or toys.