Building preschool mathematics: from 1 to 100

As grandparents, we’re used to early wake-up calls when Daisy visits us. The fleeting peace of the morning is broken by my granddaughter’s demands for a story, or for us to witness her play acting as a dragon.

Last weekend she bounced excitedly into our bedroom to inform us that “the thing in the bathroom” knew how old she was. Further investigation revealed that she had stood on the bathroom scales and, by chance, her weight (in the ‘old money’ of imperial units) was the same as her age: 3. As well as being a magical conjunction of time and mass, this demonstrated Daisy’s ability to recognise a number that is important to her.

Later that day I tracked down a number board that I had in my teaching resources. It occurred to me that, because Daisy has been showing an interest in numbers, we could enjoy a couple of relevant activities together, using this number board.

I began by showing Daisy the plain back of the board and we looked at its shape. Then I flipped it over so that Daisy could see the numbers 1 to 100. She happily examined the number board and could name the first and last numbers on the board. 

For a preschool child like Daisy, any activities with the number board (or even a game board) will be beneficial – it helps her to begin to recognise and name numbers, as well as seeing patterns in numbers. 

I gave Daisy some semi-transparent tiles (tinted red, her favourite colour) and we looked for the number that represented her age, so that she could cover the 3 with a red tile. Together we looked at the number board to see if there were any more instances of the number 3 on it; Daisy busily covered each appearance with a tile. When we had covered all of the numbers that had a number 3, Daisy looked at the board and declared that the numbers were all in a line!

A number board shows the numbers 03, 13, 23, 33, 43, 53, 63, 73, 83, and 93 identified.

This wasn’t a lengthy activity but it engaged Daisy and generated a little discussion between us about the number 3. We even found Daddy’s age and Mummy’s age (by coincidence, both included the number 3).

We tried the number board again later during Daisy’s visit. For that activity, I had picked out the number tiles for the 10’s. This was a pure matching activity. I spread the tiles out beside the number board and Daisy took each tile and matched the number tile to the number on the board and then covered it, discovering another pattern: the numbers all appeared in a line.

A number board shows the numbers 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, 100 identified.

Daisy’s number knowledge is developing through episodes of Numberblocks and activities with her childminder; she’s beginning to show more curiosity about numbers. Activities with the number board enable her to practise her number language, gain confidence using numbers and start to see that there are patterns in numbers.

These number board activities were primarily about number names and how numbers are represented. In future activities we’ll look to develop Daisy’s understanding of the quantity that each number represents.

And finally there’s some delightful numeric symmetry: enjoying this activity with Daisy has created my 100th blog!

A number board focusing on the numbers 98, 99, 100

Granny Smith says

There are examples of printable number boards online which can be used in the same way as the number board I used, covering numbers with counters or buttons.

The activities described in this post are the tip of the iceberg; number boards are very versatile and can continue to be used in a variety of ways as children develop their number skills.

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