Numicon-Based Math Activities for Preschoolers with (or without) Down Syndrome

Last spring, I read more research by Sue Buckley, Joanna Nye, and colleagues about educating young children with Down Syndrome; this time it was about teaching math. They ran a study in the early 2000s assessing the effectiveness of the Numicon System in helping young children with T21 develop basic number skills.

Their findings were promising:

The key benefits of using Numicon for children with Down syndrome in the classroom are:
• The materials and methods clearly support the development of early number concepts, and in particular the ability to calculate – for some children, using Numicon enabled them to develop these skills for the first time
• It enables teaching staff to ‘see’ what the child is thinking, which is important for identifying both successes and confusions in the child’s understanding
• It can be used to support everyday number skills such as time and money
• It is especially beneficial to children who use a visual and/or multi-sensory approach to learning
• Children are motivated to engage with the materials as they are so attractive, and they develop confidence in maths work as they can succeed with the materials
• The clear structure of the teaching system is useful for teaching staff looking for a way to differentiate the numeracy curriculum.
The benefit of using the Numicon approach was seen most clearly at the stage when the children were learning to manipulate numbers – to add, subtract and multiply.

Teaching Number Skills to children with Down Syndrome using the Numicon Foundation Kit

Of course, I had to go purchase the kit and play math with Junior. And being very pleased with Junior’s progress, I shared the 50-page study with my sister. As many of you know, she also has a young son with special needs. Quickly she emailed me back: TLTR. (Too Long to Read) Can you write up a dummies version?

Of course I can. So this post is for my sister and all other super busy moms who want to know how to teach basic number skills to young kids with or without T21.

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When Math = Misery

Math. For some children, this is the one subject that makes them balk. One look at a sheet of math problems is enough to make a child cringe and groan. Oh, the dreaded math, which takes forever to complete! The dreaded math, the bane of a student’s existence and the test of a parent’s mettle! When math = misery day after day, how can we motivate our children to complete their assignments with a good attitude and in a timely manner?

Start by finding the root cause.

Here are five reasons why kids complain about math and what we can do to help:

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Helping our Children Develop Critical Thinking Skills

Happy September! Since we’re at the beginning of a new school year, I thought I’d share a little pedagogy with you. Specifically, I would like to draw your attention to the importance of developing critical thinking skills in our children. In fact, one of our goals as educators should be to help our students become critical thinkers. It’s not enough for our students to be able to memorize and regurgitate information. It’s not even enough for them to be able to understand and explain the information they have learned. Once students begin middle school, they need to develop even higher thinking skills.

Enter Bloom’s Taxonomy, a hierarchy of critical thinking skills laid out by educational psychologist Benjamin Bloom in 1956. For decades educators have been using these six objectives to help students develop critical thinking skills. So it’s something homeschoolers need to know about. Here’s what it looks like:

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How My Kids are Keeping Busy this Summer

When I was a child, my mother used to say, “Idleness is the devil’s workshop.” I find myself saying the same thing to my kids whenever boredom leads to trouble. Not that I’m against boredom. A certain amount is healthy — it allows children to use their imaginations and creativity in a free and leisurely manner. Excessive boredom, however,  makes children want to eat when they’re not hungry and waste time on video games (which we don’t do here). It also incites kids to pester their siblings because they have nothing else to do.

The warm, care-free days of summer are a wonderful gift. But children still need structure. They still need to use their time constructively.  Besides play-dates, swimming, biking, and sports, here are some things we are doing to make the most of our summer days.

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