DEVELOPING PRE-NUMBER CONCEPTS : Previously you have read how children acquire concepts. You know that, for children to grasp a concept, they must be given several opportunities to explore and experience it. While exploring, they must be encouraged to talk about what they are doing. And, all this requires us to be patient. Some of us start by encouraging children to look for the answer themselves. But when they take time, our impatience makes us give them the answer or do the task quickly ourselves. This prevents the children from reasoning for themselves and finding out. In fact, we should help them define the problem, and then look for possible solutions, giving them enough time to do so. That is how they will develop their understanding of mathematical concepts and their ability to think mathematically.
Let us now talk specifically of ways of nurturing the child's abilities of classifying, ordering and pairing. The discovery approach, through activities that children enjoy, seems to be the most effective teaching method. We shall consider several activities here. Please note that the activities that we describe here are meant as examples only. Please adapt them t~ your specific situation, using the materials that are easily available. We also hope that they will help you to generate other activities relevant to your situation.
Let us first consider activities that can help a child to learn how to classify.