My middle son turned 3 recently, and will be starting preschool in the fall. In preparation for his new school, I’ve been using some simple ways to introduce him to preschool math, primarily his numbers. He seems to have caught onto the concept of counting, but can not yet identify the numbers when he sees them. At his birthday one of his presents gave me the perfect opportunity to teach him number recognition!
Preschool Math with Magnetic Numbers
Post contains affiliate links. For more information please see disclosure.
One of his presents was this set of magnetic numbers. The other day he brought the set out, and wanted me to play with him. I remembered an activity I had seen with magnetic letters and a baking sheet. I decided I would use this same concept to teach my son his numbers!
First I got out an old baking sheet, and then laid all the numbers onto it. I showed my son that the numbers wouldn’t fall off the baking sheet, which he responded with a big smile and a silly noise. Next I lined the numbers 1 to 9 at the top of the baking sheet.
Me: We’re going to work on your numbers today! Find the matching numbers, ok? Find the number ONE.
I pointed to the yellow #1 in the line of numbers I had set up. He didn’t really understand what I was trying to tell him to do, and he took the closest number (which happened to be 5), and placed it under the #1.
Me: That’s the number 5. Can you find the other number 1? It needs to “match the same” as this number 1.
I pointed to the yellow #1 again.
“Match the same” is a phrase he came up with on his own, so I thought it might help him better understand what I was trying to get him to do. Turns out it did! After a little bit of thinking, he found the orange #1. He placed it under the yellow #1, but upside down.
Son: I put foot together!
Me: (laughing a little at his cleverness) Yes you did!
And I left it that way. I didn’t tell him to turn it right side up. In my mind, he had found the right number and placed it correctly. I didn’t really care if it was right side up or not.
We continued on down the line.
Me: Can you find the #2?
I pointed to the red #2 in the line. He looked around for a little, then found the pink #2, and placed it below the red #2. I continued talking to him this way with each number going down the line. As he worked on matching numbers, some times he chose the wrong number. Once he placed the number under the number it was supposed to match, I would point to the two numbers and ask him, “Do these two match the same?” He would realize they didn’t match, and took the wrong number away.
I also didn’t focus on whether the numbers were upside down or backwards. He was really just looking for matching shapes, since the concept of numbers is new to him. I also helped him find matching numbers along the way, without telling him the answer. For example, if he was struggling to find a certain number, I would circle around the area on the baking sheet the number was in with my finger. He was then able to concentrate on a smaller area, and find the missing number, instead of being overwhelmed by looking on the whole sheet.
At one point skipped a few numbers and matched the #8. Again I didn’t correct him. I just encouraged him.
Me: Good job! You found the matching #8!
He then went back and found #6 and #7, and eventually #9.
Son: “I did it!” (with his hands up in the air, like he had just made a goal in soccer)
Me: You did!!
My main goal for doing this activity the first time was to make the whole experience very positive and fun. By making it fun, he will see this activity as a game, and want to do it again and again. Each time he will improve, and slowly learn the name of each number.
What kind of games do you use to teach your kids about math?
For my other ideas on teaching math to kids, see my other posts!
6 Ways to Teach Your Kids Math is Fun
9 Math Apps to Improve Your Child’s Math Skills
5 Simple Ways to Make Math Fun
Free Members Only Page
Gain access to free experiments and activities to do at home when you subscribe to From Engineer to Stay at Home mom!
This is a fun way to teach numbers! I should get some magnetic numbers for Victoria.
Yes! Plus they’re not very expensive.
This is so smart! I think I’ll try this with my toddler this week.
Thanks for sharing!
This is great. I was thinking of getting magnetic letters for my son but Now I need to get numbers too!
Love this! My son would enjoy this. We just have to get the 6 out from under the fridge, lol.
Great ideas! We have some random magnet tiles just like these, although I’ll have to see if we have enough to make matches for all the numbers. ?
Hi! I just came across your blog and am so thrilled to find you! We love teaching kiddos along the way with play and fun. I specifically blog about traveling and how to make it educational. Math is the language that makes the world go round so anything we can do to help the kiddos is just brilliant in my book! I’m scouring your website for ideas to share with my readers, too!
One of the things we like to do involves foreign currency. My kids are 10 and 12 now, but when you encounter a new currency you are right back at the beginning of learning the coins, etc. Then, we have to convert so we know how much we are spending in ‘our money’. We let the kids earn it, handle it, and use it. Great life skills and they enjoy it!
So happy to find you! ? I think this is a great road trip activity, too. The magnetic numbers will stick to the pan and the kids can play in the carseat.
My toddler enjoys even taking her magnetic numbers into the bath..although we only have one set so maybe will have to buy another for matching! Matching’s a great idea! Also like the idea of foreign currency “training’ for kids.
Came across your blog and am excited to use your tips!
So excited you found my blog too! I have more preschool ideas to come soon too!
What a fun way to introduce numbers! My 7 year old has dyslexia so we still use exercises like this to help with the number direction, recognition, etc. Thanks for sharing!
I’m glad it was helpful. The best part though is it’s a game to my son, so he gets the numbers out on his own, and asks to play.