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Math Read-Alouds: Tools to Build Foundational Math Skills

By Anna Marrs | March 1, 2019

Before a child enters kindergarten, they are expected to develop early math skills that include pattern discrimination, number identification, and a conceptual understanding of number symbols and number words. Each of these fundamental skills is complex and incredibly important for future math success. Using read-alouds is a fun and engaging way to help teach all of these skills.

1. Colors

A Color of his Own by Leo Lionni

Colors are one of the first ways children learn to classify objects. Through teaching color discrimination, you help build a child’s abilities to define, organize, and categorize information. In A Color of His Own, Leo Lionni tells the story of a sad chameleon who wants his own color, like the rest of the animals around him. Lionni combines his classic style of attractive illustrations with a compelling story that will have everyone rooting for the chameleon. Use this book to stimulate classroom discussions about the colors in your classroom, hallways, and playground. Or, use this book to allow each child to select a color of their own and bring in small objects of that color.

2. Shapes

Round is a Mooncake by Roseanne Thong

Categorizing objects by shape helps students develop skills to compare and contrast visual information. The skills that children gain through shape discrimination are the same skills they will use to differentiate numbers and letters. In Round is a Mooncake, Roseanne Thong uses a simple rhyme to describe the shapes of familiar objects to a young Chinese girl. Thong draws the reader into the story through questions such as “What other round things do you see?” and “I can name more square things, can you?”. We love this culturally diverse book and how it can help bring a different culture to life in your classroom. And, if your students love this book, read the sequel, Round is a Tortilla, by the same author. After reading this book, create a class “Round is our World” book in which children each make a page about the round things in their own neighborhoods.

3. Patterns

Pattern Fish by Trudy Harris

Patterns help students develop the ability to see relationships and make predictions. In Pattern Fish, Trudy Harris introduces both repeated visual patterns in each fish’s appearance as well as repeated patterns in their movement. Throughout the book, the patterns get increasingly longer and more complex. Students are prompted to guess the next word in the pattern in a way that will not only engage students but also help develop their predicting skills. We love that that this story combines mathematics, movement, and literacy! After you read this story, create your own dancing patterns that children repeat after you. Ask children to guess the next movement in the pattern.

4. Counting

How Many Bugs in a Box by David A. Carter

Counting and number sense are incredibly important foundational math skills that prepare children for the number manipulations and calculations they will be expected to perform in early elementary school and beyond. In How Many Bugs in a Box, David Carter presents a timeless, fun, and engaging counting book that will help students develop conceptual understanding of numbers. This book will help children understand the connection between number words, number symbols, and physical quantities. And what can excite children more than creepy, crawly creatures that are fun to squeal and squirm about? With fun flaps to lift, twist, and pull, children will surely love returning to this book again and again. Use this book to review counting or to introduce activities such as “Mystery Bag” in which children have to count a number of mystery items in a bag.

5. Measuring

Inch by Inch by Leo Lionni

Measurement and size are important concepts that teach children to categorize and order pieces of information. In addition, comparing measurements enriches children’s mathematical vocabulary with words like “longer”, “wider”, and “heavier”. In Inch by Inch, Leo Lionni tells the tale of an inch worm who measures birds’ beaks and tails by inching along. We love Lionni’s simple illustrations and the way he ends this story with a twist. Use this story to introduce the concept of length and distance as something that can be measured. Take your measurement activities outside and ask children to measure the number of steps in a specific distance, or measure and compare the size of different sticks, leaves, or even each other!

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Exploring Early Childhood Newsletter

In partnership with HighScope Educational Research Foundation, the Exploring Early Childhood Newsletter is a twice a month collection of topical research articles, tips for educators, and unique ways COR Advantage can support the documentation and communication of child development.

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COR Advantage is HighScope’s flagship observation-based assessment. COR Advantage is the leading research-backed assessment for all children from birth to kindergarten. From comprehensive planning tools to dynamic family engagement, COR Advantage offers a complete picture of child growth for schools and families.

About Anna Marrs

Anna Marrs is a former early childhood and elementary literacy curriculum developer for Bridge International Academies and a former 1st grade teacher in North Carolina. She holds a Master in Education from Harvard Graduate School of Education and now works on the Partnerships team at COR Advantage.