Preschool Math: All Sorts of Sorting!

Preschool Math: All Sorts of Sorting!

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Updated on Jun 23, 2009

Parents may think counting and recognizing numbers are the nuts and bolts of preschool math. While these are important skills for young mathematicians to master, building a foundation for complex mathematical thinking begins in the early childhood years. Sorting and classifying objects helps children begin to notice how items are alike and different, and creates an awareness that is vital for math learning.

How does a parent go about teaching their child the skills of sorting and classifying? Most importantly, make it a point to pay attention to how things are alike and different as you go about your daily routine. The seemingly simple task of sorting the silverware when it comes out of the dishwasher is a valuable early sorting task for a preschooler (and a fabulous first chore)! Use the objects in your house as teaching tools and it makes the learning more meaningful for young children."We use treasure boxes filled with 'kid stuff' and notice how things are alike and different,” says Grace Davila Coates, Program Director of Family Math (Lawrence Hall of Science, University of California at Berkeley) and co-author of Family Math for Young Children. “Kids who are used to comparing and contrasting do better in mathematics."

Try a few of these quick and easy sorting activities and your little one will be well on her way to mastering this important math skill!

All Sorts of Chores

Looking for a little help around the house? Have your preschooler help you with these household tasks while getting in some sorting practice!

  • After a trip to the grocery store, have her sort the food according to where it is stored: freezer foods, refrigerator foods, pantry foods and other household items. If she is unsure of where something goes, have her give it the touch test to see if it is cold and remind her that cold foods belong in the refrigerator or freezer.
  • Every parent loves help with the laundry! Have a sorting party and sort the clothes by color! Put all the towels together, the sheets together and separate anything else that you wash separately. Most children love to help, and this is a great way to get them started on helping around the house.
  • Sock sort! The dreaded task of sorting socks is just a big math game for preschoolers. Have your child help you sort the socks by size or family member and then by color. Matching up pairs is also an excellent way to practice visual discrimination skills. Visual discrimination is the ability to see the differences in similar objects, and will come in handy as children begin to discriminate similarly shaped numbers and letters.
  • Clean up time provides wonderful opportunities to practice sorting. The simple task of putting the blocks in one container and the crayons in another is actually an early lesson in sorting and classifying. If possible, set up your child’s play area in zones. For example, art materials, books, puzzles, and dolls all should have a special place in the room.
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