Number sense is a person’s ability to have flexibility and fluency with numbers – to use and understand numbers, know approximate values, and know how to use numbers to make decisions.
So, for example, a person with strong number sense would know that 6×3 is a relatively small amount, whereas 7×8 is a relatively larger amount.
A student with poor number sense might not know or realize this.
To paint a visual picture, think of the positive whole numbers as a forest of numbers in some sort of rectangular arrangement – say a 10×10 chart, or a 20×20 chart. Each whole number is a tree in this forest. The trees of the smaller whole numbers are closer to us, and the trees of the larger whole numbers are further away. Picking larger and larger numbers means we get further and further away from where we’re standing in this forest.
Moreover, the trees in this forest are highly organized. There are lots of diagonals that line up as well (depending on where we’re standing).
Students with poor number sense seem to see the trees and the forest as simply an enormous number of trees that are scattered all over the place in front of them. They might know that the value of 4×2 (its tree) is pretty close by, that the value of 9×8 (its tree) is further away, and that the tree for 15×17 is a lot further away. But they usually don’t see the number forest as a highly organized chart of numbers.
So how can we help our kids develop strong number sense? Especially, how can we help young kids (ages 2-7) develop strong number sense from early on?
By having kids listen to skip count songs. Skip count songs have catchy melodies whose choruses are a skip counting sequence. For example, the chorus for the 4’s song is…
four, eight, twelve, sixteen,
thirty-six, that’s fun – yahoo!”
Skip counting songs help kids memorize skip count sequences – 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, 21, 24, etc., and 8, 16, 24, 32, 40, 48, 56, etc.
Skip counting songs implant number sense into a child’s mind. For example, notice that the number 24 is on both of the above lists. That is, 24 is a multiple of 3, and 24 is also a multiple of 8.
Kids who know these skip count sequences have an experiential sense of the following:
• we get to 24 pretty quickly when skip counting by 8, but…
• it takes us longer to get to 24 when skip counting by 3.
That in a nutshell is number sense.
There are so many success stories we have with kids who have learned how to skip count from the songs. Skip count songs are so powerful, I tell parents and teachers this: if there were only one math resource you could get for your child from ages 2 to 7, get the skip count songs.
There are two great sets that we provide. Contact us at info@AlgebraForKids.com about acquiring one or both of them.