It’s important to use materials to help young children understand maths concepts at an early level. Any materials can be used. Pop-sticks are inexpensive and easily available if nothing else springs to mind.
Ask your child to choose a number of pop-sticks (between 20 and 30) to put out on the table or floor. When he has put them out, ask him to prove to you that he is correct. As he counts them, watch to see if his counting is accurate.
Then take turns with him to add one more and say how many there are now.
Add on about 12 numbers and stop. If he is finding this very easy, you choose a higher starting point and follow the same procedure. If he finds it difficult you choose a lower starting number and follow the same procedure.
Start from 20. Take turns to remove one pop-stick and say how many there are. Then start from 25, 30 etc
When he can use the 0-9 pattern correctly at least up to 50, explore skip-counting by 2s, starting from 0.
Put out two pop-sticks and say 2. Then ask your child to add two more and say how many. Continue taking turns up to 50.
Then work on going backwards from 20, removing two pop-sticks each time. If he can do this, start from 30 and go back to 0.
When he can skip-count like this, try going forwards starting from 1. Put out one pop-stick. Then ask your child to add two more and say how many. Take turns but stop when it starts gets difficult for your child. Work on increasing just by a couple of numbers, practising over time using the pop-sticks.
Put out 2 pop-sticks. Ask him to double it by adding more pop-sticks and tell you how many there are. Practise doubling any amount up to 10 in the same way. Besides making him aware that doubling is a maths strategy, you are helping him develop the understanding that number facts stay the same, ie 4 and 4 is always 8.
As we use a base 10 number system, working to help him see ‘tens’ is very important. If your child can count to 100 he will be able to bundle pop-sticks.
Give him a heap of up to 60 pop-sticks and ask him to bundle them into groups of 10. Ask if he’s sure they’re in groups of ten and how he knows this. Then check for accuracy. Point out that accuracy is crucial in Maths.
Then ask him to bundle them together using elastic bands.
Take turns to count in 10s, adding a bundle each time.
Take turns to select any number between 20 and 50 and make each number using the bundles and loose pop-sticks, eg 45 will be 4 bundles of 10 and 5 loose pop-sticks.
Keep these bundles intact to practise with later.
To check whether a child is on track with early Maths, use Maths Test For 6-8 Year Olds