Mathemize Your Home: Teaching Shapes and Colors (Part 1 of a Series)



Integrating a Math lesson while playing makes learning fun.

Integrating a Math lesson while playing makes learning fun.

Parents worry about their kids’ reading skills, but I rarely hear them worry about number skills (I admit to that). But our children’s success is as dependent on numeracy as it is on literacy.

Numeracy, which involves our ability to make sense of numbers, time, and patterns, to think logically, and to create reasonable strategies, is important not just for solving algebraic equations or deriving some calculus problem. We need it for calculating change, figuring out how much time you have left, or estimate how much of something we need. We rely on our numeracy for daily tasks such as cooking, driving, and even playing sports.

We do teach our children number skills when we count their fingers and toes, when we tell them that they can only have two pieces of candy, or when they have five more minutes before bedtime. But did you know that teaching them colors and shapes also hones numeracy? Learning about colors and shapes—while they may seem to be a simple rite of childhood—develops the ability to observe, compare, and classify things in this world. Shapes also represent other things, and this helps move from concrete to abstract thinking.

So how do we become more intentional in our parental quest to improve numeracy? Here are a three easy ideas you can implement in your home when teaching colors and shapes.

Label everything.

We usually do this unconsciously, when we say, “Oh look at that red balloon!” or when we ask, “What color is your ball?” But we can be more conscious of opportunities all throughout our day. We can say, “Look! There are two balls! One is blue and the other one is yellow. What shape are they both? They’re both round, like circles.”

Start with the simplest ones.

While you certainly can get bragging rights if you can teach your child the difference between the teal dodecagon and the turquoise hendecagon, it’s best to start with the simpler ones. Primary colors, shapes with the least number of sides (like circles and triangles) are the ideal starters.

Use real objects.

It helps to have something to touch and hold when learning something. Wooden building blocks, tangram pieces, soft rubber puzzles—all these are good to have when teaching shapes and colors. Real world objects like plates, utensils, windows, clouds will also work.

And here’s a bonus tip: incorporate counting while you’re at it. “How many blue squares do we have? One, two, three…Right! Three.” Also, when counting move the objects (e.g. move each block from the table to a box). This helps make the counting more concrete.

Happy math days ahead!

A version of this article is included in the There's a Math Teacher in The House newsletter, to which I have started contributing to. This newsletter is published weekly by MATH-Inic, a system that teaches mental Math techniques that will help make Math fun, fast, and easy. The newsletter contains tips on how to promote Math in your home; techniques to speed up calculations (useful for competitions!); and fun things you can do with numbers. Sign up here to receive the free weekly There's a Math Teacher in The House newsletter and other updates from MATH-Inic


Speak your mind