Numbers Are Everywhere!

WordleNumeracy, according to the most recent PIAAC (Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies) report, is defined as the ability to access, use, interpret and communicate mathematical information and ideas, in order to engage in and manage the mathematical demands of a range of situations in adult life (OECD 2012). In more simplified terms, it can be defined as “the ability to understand and work with numbers.”

Have you ever thought about how prevalent numbers are in daily life? Similar to environmental print (print that is found in our everyday environment), numbers are everywhere – whether you are using your computer or cell phone, planning or preparing a meal, shopping, or heading out for a stroll.

Numeracy is about shapes, patterns, sorting and understanding the language of numbers, rather than adding and subtracting, or computing a series of mathematical equations. To me it is about having a good understanding of:

  • Number sense – a flexible understanding of what numbers are – that 1 is the same as the word one and can be represented by a single object or fact, that many parts can make up a whole
  • Counting – numbers follow each other in sequence either up or down, in pairs or groups
  • Shapes – recognizing both 2D and 3D shapes in our daily lives
  • Measurement – this can relate to distance, size, value or time
  • Patterns and sequencing – what comes next and how to duplicate and create new patterns
  • Sorting or categorizing – why are things grouped in a certain way
  • Problem solving – if this happens, then what might happen next?
  • Language of numbers – words that are used to describe the concept of numbers, like over/under, bigger/smaller, more than/less than, same/different, trial and error

Children are born mathematicians. They start early, learning about the concepts of numeracy long before they know what numeracy means. This is demonstrated when you see or hear a child:

  • Proudly hold up his fingers to show you that he is 3 – number sense
  • Tell you that you need to STOP – shape and colour of the stop sign
  • Ask you how many sleeps until a special event – measurement
  • Separate the different colours or shapes of their toys – sorting and categorizing
  • Figure out how many pieces of apple are needed so that each friend gets a piece – problem solving
  • Explain that she is “much more bigger” than her little brother

There are many simple ways to support children in their understanding of numeracy. You are probably already doing some of these things without giving any thought to numeracy!

  • Count the number of leaves on a flower stem.
  • Find shapes in the playground.
  • Spend time building with Lego or blocks.
  • Get help setting the table, asking how many plates, cups, and forks are needed.
  • Bake some cookies.
  • Get your child to help sorting the laundry, making sure to ask why they sorted the way they did. It may seem random to you but they will have a reason.

Numeracy today is about more than just the ability to count, multiply and divide. Like literacy, it is an essential skill that should be learned in the home long before a child starts on their formal learning journey.

3,2,1 Fun! program information (there will be a session starting in January 2015 – watch for updates!)

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Let’s Make the Holidays COUNT!

holiday_baking

Holidays are a busy time for many families; there is so much to do! You might want to clean and decorate the house, plan and prepare the meal, and entertain guests. You might also travel to spend time with family. While the holidays are full of opportunities to share time and traditions with family and friends, they are also the perfect time to explore and encourage numeracy with your children.

For example, this Thanksgiving 3,2,1, Fun! focused on providing easy, meaningful and everyday ways to work on numeracy skills in the home and community over the holidays. We used inexpensive materials to create paper bag turkeys and numbered them 1-10. We used yellow beads for corn feed and glued feathers on clothes pins. Then each child picked a paper bag turkey and used the number on the front of the turkey to determine how many pieces of corn to feed their turkey and how many tail feathers to clip on. As each child built their turkeys 1-10, we sang about 5 fat turkeys as they gobbled and waddled their way through Thanksgiving!

(Sung to the tune of Frere Jacques. Count down from 5-1)

Five fat turkeys, five fat turkeys
In a barn, in a barn
Gobble, gobble, gobble
Waddle, waddle, waddle
Run away, it’s Thanksgiving Day

Holiday preparations and celebrations offer many opportunities to learn together as a family. Here are a few of the activities we share in 3,2,1, Fun! to encourage numeracy skills:

Planning and Preparing the Meal

  • Let your child look through the grocery store flyer and circle all of the holiday foods they see, cut them out and sort them into food groups.
  • Ask your child to help you number or sort the items while creating your shopping list.
  • Baking and cooking are wonderful occasions to work on numeracy. Recipes are full of opportunities for children to measure, count, order, and sort. When serving the meal, ask your children to help you carve the turkey or cut the pie. Talk to them about how many pieces of pie or turkey you will need for the number of guests you have. Ask them to help set the table. How many forks and napkins will we need?

Decorate the House

  • Create decorations from seasonal items outside. Instead of raking all those leaves and acorns, have your children collect some. They can create wonderful decorations from these items and in the process they will be identifying shapes, sorting, and creating patterns.

Travel

  • If you are travelling for the holiday, travel games will make the time fly by. Count the number of trucks/cars/bikes that you see, guess which colour of automobile you will see the most of on your trip or identify the shapes of traffic signs as you drive by them.
  • Sing a song!

The holidays are busy and hectic, fun and exciting, but above all else they are memorable. Have fun and be creative because the opportunities to learn as a family and explore numeracy will be COUNTLESS!

hashtag: #321_Fun