Preschool Math Learning - Part 4 - Comparing & Ordering - Seven Playful Ideas
21 January 2020
During the preschool years, your child will naturally observe and note differences in their world. Their awareness of these differences is the beginning of their understanding of the basic math concept of comparing. They’ll talk about how things like size, shape and color are different: “Your dog is brown. My dog is black.” These types of comparison lead to ordering, or putting things into a sequence. Both of these concepts will be essential in your preschooler’s future math as well as reading skills. So, here are seven simple, playful ways that you can support them!
Preschoolers make comparisons easily and naturally in life, especially when it’s a personal comparison: “My brother is little.” “I’ve got the biggest piece.” or, “You’ve got more than me!” This initial, personal understanding of comparison can be extended in 3 playful ways throughout your day.
- When your little one is building with blocks, ask them to make additional comparisons such as “Which tower is the tallest?” “Which one is the smallest?” or, “Pick up the heaviest blocks first.” You can ask your preschooler to identify parts of their building using similar, comparative words. “Which part of your building is the lowest?” Which part is the highest?”
- When playing in the bath, include different size and shape containers so your little one can make comparisons based on volume. “How many blue cups of water will it take to fill this container?” “How many red cups will it take to fill it?” “Which cup is the heaviest?” “Does this cup hold as much water as that one?”
- Use your favorite stories and poems, like the Three Bears, or the Itsy Bitsy Spider, to reinforce the idea of comparisons using different characteristics. Sing about and then chat about the size or the weather in these songs.
Order is another math idea that will be a key part of kindergarten learning. Preschoolers begin ordering by understanding opposite ends of a series such as: big or little, heavy or light, cold or hot, long or short. For example, comparing heights (I’m taller than you!) is natural for children of this age. And height comparison between two children is a natural way to begin an understanding of ordering.
If your preschooler is around 2 years of age, it’s best to compare only two objects at first. For older children 3 and up, this can be extended to three or more objects. You can help your preschooler see order in size these 4 easy, everyday ways:
- Putting sticks, blocks, or nesting cups in a sequence by size that leads gradually from the smallest to the biggest. Measuring spoons and cups are perfect ordering materials for preschoolers of all ages.
- Save empty, clean cans of different sizes for your little one to arrange from smallest to largest in a row.
- Find the shortest and longest building blocks to put in a row. Then, add other sizes in between the two, opposite ends.
- When playing with dough, roll up balls of different sizes and order them from smallest to largest. This is especially fun when you make your own dough, like our Super Simple Play Dough and Five-minute No-cook Nut Butter Balls.
Easy, right? It only takes a few moments to have fun exploring the math concepts of comparison and ordering together!
Want to get more simple ways to have a positive impact on your child’s learning during their early years? Check out in our article, The Promise of Your Child’s Early Development - Make the Most of It. Or, have more fun with the concepts of order and comparison in our activity, What is the Opposite Game.
Did these ideas make it easy to support your preschooler's math learning? Feel free to tell us what you think right here. Stay tuned for Part 5 of our five-part Preschool Math Learning series, Shape and Form!
Thanks for the inspiration/photo credit goes to Erik Albers’ image of Caravanserai in desert Dasht-e Lut, Kerman Province, Iran, the hottest place on earth, with a surface temperature on earth of 159.3°F or 70.7°C.