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Can Simple Games Increase Preschoolers' Comfort With Math?

We recently wrote about how letting young kids play with books can help develop early literacy skills. A University of Buffalo professor says parents and teachers can take a similar approach to developing math skills by playing simple brain games with preschoolers.

Ming Ming Chiu, a professor in the university's Graduate School of Education, says that helping young kids grasp the numbers and patterns that fill our daily lives can make them become more comfortable learning math.

So Chiu, who's spent decades training teachers and observing students, has come up with some simple games using household items, including food, that can help children understand basic concepts that "give mathematical order to the chaos around them."

Parents may find that Chiu's games are the kind of thing that they are doing anyway with their kids. But by taking a more mathematical approach, playing with a snack of Cheerios can become a lesson in number sense.

"Children with stronger math skills can recognize more patterns in the world's rapid creation of new information, which grew by a factor of nine during 2006-11," Ming says on the university's website. "By understanding these patterns, children will not only better compete for the best jobs as adults, but they also will be better equipped to help solve such major problems as global warming and energy crises.

The games can be as simple as putting berries on a couple of plates and asking kids which plate has more or how to add and subtract the berries to end up with the same number on each plate.

A bit more complicated game helps preschoolers understand the concept of statistics by counting how much junk mail arrives each day. Then parents help kids try to predict how much will arrive the next day and analyze the accuracy of their predictions.

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