Before young children are able to perform simple mathematical operations, like addition and subtraction, they must first understand that the visual representation of a number, the way it is written, represents a set or quantity. For example, if I see the number 5 written on a piece of paper, I can envision 5 cookies, 5 apples, or 5 cars. If someone asks me for 5 cents, I know that I can count out 5 pennies to meet their request. While the idea of counting a group of objects seems concrete, for a preschool-age child, understanding that the word we use correlates with a written number which then correlates with a specific quantity of something…requires a lot of skills! The primary skill taught to children to understand these concepts is one-to-one correspondence.
One-to-one correspondence can be taught to children using familiar materials, like building blocks, counting bears, and magnets. In this activity, my daughter is stacking a set number of like-colored Duplo blocks to correspond with the number printed on the paper.
For more great ideas for teaching one-to-one correspondence, visit 5 Simple Preschool Math Activities on Mom it Forward.