Tips for Building Early Numeracy Skills for Your Youngsters

I recently visited with Kelly Dharamshi from The Reader’s Corner. She is an expert tutor who supports early literacy as she works with children in grades Kindergarten through fifth grade. She and I have visited several times and we decided to collaborate. I do have a few kiddos that I support with reading, even though my specialty is working with kids on their math skills. I love helping kids bolster their math skills, but many times it comes down to a child needing support with their numeracy skills. 

I wanted to share the questions and answers I provided from our interview. But, if you want to listen to the interview, you can find it on her YouTube page. It will be posted soon. In the interview I discussed the importance of building those early numeracy skills so children are not lost during their math classes. 

Kelly: Do you think parents put as much emphasis on math as they do reading?

Sheryl: No, I don’t. Reading seems to be something parents immediately go to because they like to sit down and spend time reading books. It is easy to go to the library and grab books. It becomes a ritual for families to sit down and share a good story. That isn’t to say that all kids find it easy to read, but, for most parents, reading seems to be an easier thing to put an emphasis on. 

I think it becomes much more challenging to engage youngsters in math. It is very abstract. Parents don’t always have ideas about how to do “math” with their child. So, I think the best response is that parents put more of an emphasis on reading to their young children rather than math. 

Kelly: When you think about young children, what are your thoughts about the importance of early numeracy skills? 

Sheryl: Because it often gets neglected, parents need to understand that helping their child learn basic math skills at home is really important. Most parents wait until their child enters school before they actually do any math with them. What they fail to realize is that many kids don’t understand what a number actually is until they get to school. You might be counting with your child out loud, but are you using manipulatives with your child? Are you giving meaning to the number?  A written number is very abstract. Children need to understand that the written number has meaning to it. 

Kelly: Do you have suggestions for parents to use to support their child with their early numeracy skills? 

Sheryl: Yes, I do! Thinking about counting, consider using counting mats to support your child’s understanding of the numbers 0-10. A counting mat is simply a 2 by 5 box. You can write the digits 1-10 in the boxes starting with 1 in the upper left hand corner. The top row is 1-5, the second row is 6-10. Then find something you want to use for your child to count with. Remember to start with 0. That would mean that no boxes are filled in. Then move to the box with a 1 in it. Place 1 object in it. Continue all of the way up 10. Once your child masters that, you can ask them to show you 5 in isolation and see if they can show that on its own. 

Another great tool that is overlooked is an abacus. I have a 10 by 10 row abacus. But, I know they sell them in different styles. An abacus is simply a tool that children use to count. Each row has 10 beads. They can use it to learn how to count, and as they become proficient, they can extend it to counting higher numbers. 

One final thing you can do to help your child with numeracy skills is to play board games. The simple act of rolling a die or spinning a spinner and counting their place on the board game supports early numeracy skills. 

For more information about Tutoring with Sheryl, be sure to go to:

For more information about Kelly, be sure to go to:

Published by Tutoring with Sheryl

I have 32 years of experience teaching in public schools in Nebraska. I hold a Bachelor of Science in Education from the University of Nebraska-Lincon. I hold a Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction from Doane University. I have 2 Google for Education Certifications. I have been tutoring online for 1 year. I have worked with countless students of all ages to support their education. I also support teachers with planning and management in their classrooms.

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