As children start using number words, they don’t always have a sense of what those words really mean. We guide children to develop a meaningful number sense by focusing on small numbers in preschool and helping children connect those number words to specific quantities.
We can think of a quantity as a number plus its unit—that is, the numerosity of set that is being counted. Not just “two” but “two shoes” or “two paintbrushes.” Adults can use language to describe how many of what we are seeing as we share attention to small numbers with a child. And, books are one the best ways to look at quantities with your child.
When sets of objects are small—one, two, and three—children can recognize the quantity of without counting. Even young children can instantly “see” how many — subitize — when we provide them with pictures, photos, and real-life sets and ask the question, “how many do you see?” The more opportunities children have, the more they develop this math lens for seeing small numbers everywhere!
Here are three books that can spark talk about small sets of one, two, and three things. When it comes to exploring number words, printable downloadable at-home activity cards such as these can help. Written in both English and Spanish, they are a guide to engaging your child. Many of these books are available in digital form on YouTube. Play the video but turn off the sound and read the book yourself. Remember, you can pause the video just like you would while reading the paper book to ask questions and look for the small numbers mentioned in the stories.
Two Mice by Sergio Ruzzier
This is an adorably illustrated tale of two mice on a boating trip. The author tells the story using simple text and groups of one, two, or three items. No counting required here. Readers can easily see and name the small sets. With number words printable guides like these can help.
Here you can download a PDF that includes all of the at-home activity cards mentioned here. English and Spanish versions.