PreK Math – Sorting with Beads

  • Erika 

A lot of parents are intimidated by math. It’s like a drooling, toothy monster, who lurks in a dark corner. While higher math can certainly be more difficult as parents have to dive deep into long forgotten corners of their mind, early math, preK math, can be a ton of fun, and believe it or not, not even involve a single worksheet!

One of my very favorite preschool math activities is sorting. If that word, sorting, brings terrifying visions of laundry piles, never fear, no laundry involved.

You can sort just about anything. My favorite things are items with a variety of shapes and colors. We have a bag of multicolored beads that we got for my toddlers to string on pipe cleaners – great for dexterity and fine motor skills! These beads are not just a variety of colors, but shapes, great for sorting. If you have a Cricut or Silhouette, you can cut out shapes on different colored card stock in 3-8 specific sizes.

When we sort beads, I take a big handful and place it on the table. Then I let my kids decide if we are sorting by shape or by color. Once we decide, we sort. This time we sorted by color.

prek math sorting

Once we have our piles, I ask questions like, “which pile do you think has the most?” “Which pile do you think has the least?” If they are little, sometimes you have to use simple words to help them understand the concept of least and most.

If these were simple pony beads we could just line them up and see which line is the longest to see which has the most, but since the beads are a variety of sizes we had to get a little creative.

preschool math sorting

I get out some graph paper and made a column for each color. We count each bead in a given pile together – this gives lots of counting repetition, but is way more fun then just counting over and over. Once we find out how many a pile holds, I add it to our graph.

Once we have all of our colors drawn, I could ask more questions like, “which pile actually has the most/least?” And see if it is the same as the one they guessed. If it isn’t, see if they can figure out why. Maybe it looked like there were more, because there were big shapes in that pile which made the pile look big…?

You can also ask questions like, “which piles have the same number?” “Put the piles in order from least to greatest.” Etc.

My toddlers are 3 and think this is lots of fun. In my opinion though, there are two huge things to remember that keep it fun.

  1. When they are done, be done! At a PreK age, any sit down schooling is great! Don’t fight them if they haven’t done all the things you wanted them to do.
  2. Don’t do it too often. The key to fun activities is that they aren’t overdone. That keeps them fun and exciting. There are very few things that I do every day that are still fun to me, even if they once were.

What do you do to make math fun for your preschooler?

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