You know that growing collection of random bits and bobs that your child collects? That basket full of 'stuff' that is cluttering your bench top. The sticks, stones, shells, buttons, plastic car, rubber ball, and snake....

Well,DO NOT throw them out!

Most of these items are valuable mathematics resources that you and your child can work with.

These objects can be used for sorting, classifying and grouping which are important foundation mathematics skills and form part of the Algebra strand of the New Zealand Mathematics curriculum .

Classifying and sorting is important for developing numerical concepts, an understanding of patterns and relationships between objects , the ability to group numbers and sets, important for completing complex sums in the upper primary years. By classifying and sorting, logical thinking is applied to everyday objects, which is important for later mathematics as well as all decision making.

What to do with these things?

Put them all in a basket.

Make them accessible to your child.

He will play with these bits and pieces for hours, not only being busily engaged, but learning important mathematics skills in the process.

You will notice that at first he will chose, pull out and line up, the things that he likes. We call this sorting by preference.

To extend your child's sorting and classifying skill and knowledge.

Ask your child why he chose these objects. How are they all similar? What do they have in common?

Are these things the same? Different? How?

Asking these questions will support him to think deeper about the attributes of the objects and how they are the same, and to clarify and verbalise his ideas.

Suggest other attributes - "Let's find all the round things, blue things, smooth things, things that grow...".

This will not only support classifying but also colour, shape and vocabulary development at the same time.

Children love to put things inside bags, boxes, containers. Line some up and start sorting everything into these.

Draw circles on carpet or concrete with chalk (if you are game!) and sort your sets into these.

Use different coloured bowls or different coloured paper for your child to sort coloured objects onto.

Use ice cube trays,  muffin trays or egg cartons to sort small objects.

When your child gets really good at this you can then suggest two attributes, then three.... Let's find the round, blue things. The red animals? The big, blue, round things.

Other things to sort.

Emptying the dishwasher and putting things away into the correct place - knives, forks,spoons...

Tidying up toys at the end of the day into specific places or baskets.

Clearing out your child's drawers and shelves - socks in here, shirts here....

Threading beads to make necklaces etc - try to find beads of differing colour, size and shape.

Sorting buttons. Yes, buttons! Buttons are an amazing resource for your child to sift through, sort, classify and group.

Cut out magazine pictures and sort them – flowers, red flowers, blue flowers, men,woman, children….

Sort plastic magnetic letters into colours.

Sort plastic animals into animals that run, hop, swim…

Sort vehicles into the number of wheels, into sea vehicles, land vehicles.

Milk bottle tops.

The list is endless.

Have fun supporting your child's early algebra knowledge and skills. He will!

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