Building up number concept in a fun way

Before a child can understand complex mathematical systems, they need to have a strong number concept – an understanding of how numbers relate to each other, and how they can be manipulated. Many learners struggle with math in the later grades because they have learned how to add, and subtract, in a rote fashion without fully understanding the application in real-life, or the reasoning behind the steps they are taking. For example, a child might learn how to complete a subtraction sum with borrowing, but may not understand how the borrowing is related to hundreds, tens, and units.

Exploring numbers, and their values, without incorporating math language, is imperative to a child’s foundational mathematical skills. For young children, it is never too early to begin working on their number concept – but it can be fun! The more obvious ways to work on these skills are with simple board games such as Snakes and Ladders or Ludo – when playing these games, a child is exposed to numbers on a dice, as well as counting as they move their pieces. As they move their pieces, you can bring in simple explanations, such as “Look, you were on block 6, and when you jumped 5 times, you landed on block 11!” Board games with numbers on the playing board also offer children an opportunity to see the digits in relation to the others. Using a Snakes and Ladders board that goes up to 100 also offers a great chance for children to explore number patterns – ask your child to identify any patterns they spot, for example how in the far column, all the numbers end in zero.

Other ways to incorporate number play into every day life include counting items – for example, while making snacks (“put 3 carrots on each plate, can you see how many carrots we have altogether now?”) You can also create rainy-day games that use numbers – for example, paper cups with different numbers written on them that need to be filled with that amount of beads or toys (you can expand on this by exposing children to various ways that numbers can be displayed: regular digits, dice dots, tally marks, or even the number name written in words).

As a child gets ready to enter grade 1, being able to break up numbers becomes important – children who understand how to manipulate numbers have a better ability to find various ways to solve mathematical problems. You can play simple bonds games with your child, such as each having a certain number of beads and seeing how many different ways they can be split up: for example, 10 beads can be made into piles of 5 and 5, or 2 and 8, or 1 and 9. Another way of manipulating numbers is breaking them up into groups of 10 – for example, 62 can be shown as 6 groups of 10 and 2 units. Using blocks to show these connections is a great way to make it more fun – a child can have 27 blocks, and see how many towers of 10 they can make with how many single blocks are left over. Children can also be encouraged to guess which number will have more “towers.”

The important thing to remember when exposing numbers and counting to children is to avoid making it a chore, and to encourage all exploration.  A child who is forced to count items, will begin to find mathematics aversive, but a child who is using math skills to count out a certain number of treats, or to identify numbers while baking with a parent, will see the value of numbers and be more likely to enjoy the problems presented in school.

The importance of visual perception

Visual perception is a broad term used to describe the ability to absorb visual information, and make sense of what is being seen. This skill impacts many aspects of a person’s life, and for a learner in particular. If a child has deficits in their visual perception skills, we may see difficulties in reading, writing, copying from a board, as well as motor skills, such as catching a ball.

There are many activity books available that have paper-based tasks that are both entertaining, and work on a child’s visual perception. Activities such as mazes, spot-the-difference, finding hidden objects, and dot-to-dots are wonderful. Closure activities, such as completing a half drawn picture, are also fantastic for this skill. Many children enjoy playing school-school, which is a great opportunity for them to copy from a board – hang a piece of paper on the wall, and they will have their very own whiteboard!

Spending time playing games outside will also encourage the development of these skills – playing ball games such as soccer, tennis, or simply catching and throwing a ball, all allow a child opportunities to track moving objects, and react to their movement. Downtime activities such as jigsaw puzzles, and tangrams, are also fantastic. Arts and crafts offer multiple opportunities: cutting accurately on lines, and putting different items together in the correct places.

Treasure hunts are another great way to incorporate multiple visual skills – you can present a child with a map that needs to be followed, which will allow them a chance to link the symbols on a piece of paper to the real-world objects; or have the prizes hidden in plain sight. Giving verbal clues as to where the items are hidden also encourages development of a child’s receptive language skills. Having a drawer full of objects, and describing one item that needs to be found, is another way of building up both language and visual skills – for example, having a drawer of toy animals, and giving the instruction “find the one that has hooves, black and white stripes, and lives in the savannah.”

Visual memory is another important component to visual perception. This can be targeted in a variety of fun ways as well, such as playing memory match. Another fun game involves showing a child a tray with multiple items, and removing one with the child looking away; the child will then need to identify the item that was taken. This can be made more challenging by increasing the number of items on display – many children enjoy reversing the roles during this game, by testing their parents’,  or caretakers’ memory too! You can also increase visual memory by showing a child a sequence of items, muddling them up, and allowing them to re-order the items – for example, building a tower of five blocks (red, green, blue, orange, and yellow), breaking it up, and allowing the child to build it up in the same order as before.

It is also important to remember to limit screen time, as the close proximity does not allow for constant engagement with their environment, or adjustment to items that are further away. During screen time, particularly iPads, encourage children to engage in apps or games that allow for visual engagement – such as hidden object games, and mazes.

Working with Catch Up

The Catch Up Kids programme has allowed such an amazing opportunity to work with such an amazing variety of children, with such an amazing variety of skills! Each learner who walks through the doors offers a new set of achievements to be met, and endless amounts of fun to be had. The children who come to Catch Up are here for a reason: they are struggling to keep up with their peers in a mainstream classroom; but this does not remotely mean that they are unable to learn, or unable to thrive. Every child we see has their own set of difficulties to battle with, but also their own unique set of brilliant strengths. At Catch Up, we strive to use those strengths to help these learners reach their goals – this is where the individualised programmes really work, we have no cookie-cutter methods applied to all children.

Though it can be difficult at times, I love knowing that there is always a way to help a child learn – you can try ten different ways unsuccessfully, but there will always be ten more to utilise.  Not only do we help children reach the necessary levels in academics, but the most satisfying part of a programme is aimed at teaching the child to LEARN. By helping a child develop skills such as attention, and memory, we open up the door to allowing them to learn in the classroom environment.

Sometimes the gap that needs to be filled in can seem insurmountable, but the little victories that we see in our data, and the little increases in marks, just go to show that slow and steady wins the race. I have had the absolute pleasure of working with a grade 4 learner this year – she is such a wonderful character, and shows such dedication to her work. This child has struggled with maths and English for most of her school career, and came to us with concerns for her marks. Across the time we have worked with this child, there are three hugely special moments that have occurred:

  • For a child who was consistently achieving 20-30% in tests, she is now coming home with scores of 60% – this has given her such a boost in confidence too!
  • We taught her a strategy for reading comprehensions involving highlighting keywords, and recently came home with a test (with a score of 60%) that showed the evidence of her transferring this strategy to the classroom environment.

And my absolute, most favourite moment,

  • She came home, EXCITED, to show me something new she had learned at school, in maths class. She is loving long multiplication, and division!

Through everything, this child has never once not tried, and never once complained something is too hard – her commitment, and the effort she puts into everything she does, is not only admirable, but it is what motivates me after a long day. The pride that she experiences with each little improvement is palpable, and just infectious to everyone in the room with her. This child is just one of many, and this story is just one of many – each child has the capability to experience these successes, and each child deserves to have the chance to reach their potential.

Summer holidays are here! Although it’s a time for children to relax and recharge, the learning does not have to stop! Without much effort, opportunities to learn can be found or embedded into activities that can be enjoyed by the entire family.

No need to splurge on expensive toys or holiday programs. Here are some great tips that you can do at home.

Cooking activities:

Keep the meals simple and exciting. Pizza is always a great meal that gets the kids excited. This can be made in to a competition, you be the judge of the best pizza. Making dough from scratch is always fun! It works on motor skills, and any dietary restrictions can be adhered to. A great bonus is that you don’t have to cook dinner! Furthermore, cooking activities create many learning opportunities regarding safety in the kitchen. You can even work reading in to this activity by having the children work from a recipe!

Play dress up:

This is a great activity to get the creative juices flowing! Encouraging your child to imagine and dream is a good way to develop self-confidence and self-expression. This is also a great way to work on play- and social skills. Make props from any material you have lying around home. With creative thinking, something like plastic bags can be made in to any dress-up prop. This also brings fine motor activities in to play. Get the kids involved in making a cool Superhero cape and have a blast running around in the garden.

Picnics:

Have a picnic in your backyard, or go to your local park when you feel like getting out of the house. Get the kids involved in packing the snacks and teach them about the different food groups. Whether you have toddlers, tweens or teens, gross motor activities such as swing ball, cricket or touchers are always fun to play when at the park.

Arts and crafts:

Drawing, painting and colouring are always fun activities! But why not make it more exciting by painting old T-Shirts, drawing or writing with chalk on the driveway or even with whiteboard markers on windows. The fun learning opportunities in arts and crafts activities are endless. Work on fine motor skills, academic concepts such as numbers, letters, shapes, and build on social skills by doing this with friends.

Boardgames:

Get out the Scrabble, Pictionary, Uno, Monopoly or Snakes and Ladders. These games are great for stimulating minds! These activities provide opportunities to work on following rules, sharing and turn taking, builds healthy competition and even practice academic concepts

Ultimately, learning can be fun and a family affair! Have fun with your family this holiday while stimulating and expanding those young minds!

During holiday times it is often difficult to think of appropriate activities to occupy your child, never mind finding activities that promote development of skills that will be enjoyable and stimulating at the same time!

Executive functioning is included in activities that consists of planning, organizing, strategizing, practicing inhibition and paying attention. These skills help our kids o finish their work on time at school and impacts their entire day by being able to plan their routines and complete it.  Playing games with your kids can help improve these skills as well as give you some quality time together!

Games you can play with your preschool child

  1. Hide and seek games like peek-a-boo: this game develops working memory to remember what happens next, it works on inhibition to wait for the appropriate time to react as well as develops the ability to paying attention.
  2. Songs or rhymes with movement and repetition: such as twinkle twinkle little star, itsy bitsy spider: remembering the lines targets working memory, your child pays attention to what they need to sing as well as works on inhibition to wait for the correct movement that goes with the songs.
  3. Role play games by for example pretending that you are a mommy or a fireman: this teaches and improves following rules and inhibiting actions that don’t belong with the role they are playing.
  4. Matching games: this teaches cognitive flexibility as well as works on attention and inhibition.
  5. Sorting games such as sorting shapes, colors or objects:this works on working memory, attention and inhibition.
  6. Simple puzzles: building puzzles develop working memory

Games you can play with your 5-7 year old child

  1. Card games such as Uno and board games such as checkers: These games help you practice cognitive flexibility.
  2. Musical chairs and dodgeball: these games require paying attention and practicing inhibition
  3. Simon Says: improves attention, inhibition and cognitive flexibility.
  4. Solving puzzles and brain teaser books: these games improve problem-solving abilities as well as cognitive flexibility.
  5. I spy with my little eye: this game develops working memory and attention.

Games to play with your 8-12 year old child

  1. Card games and board games: these games exercise working memory, quick decision making, and practices developing game-based strategies. Some examples of these are Hearts, Bridge, Rummy cup
  2. Physical activities that require constant monitoring of your environment like soccer, baseball, and flashlight tag.
  3. Playing music or a musical instrument, singing, and dancing: This improves attention, cognitive flexibility and inhibition.
  4. Brain teasers, crossword puzzles, math and number puzzles, and spatial puzzles (like a rubik’s cube): these games improve working memory, flexibility and cognitive flexibility.
  5. Minecraft: this works on working memory, attention and inhibition.
  6. Jenga: improves self-monitoring, flexible thinking and inhibition through impulse control.
  7. Chess: Planning and prioritizing, organization, task initiation, impulse control and flexible thinking.

Games to play with your 13-18 year-old child

  1. Focus on activities that promote the planning process. Even learning to help with the laundry or a multi-step activity such as baking a cake or cookies.
  2. Strategy games and logic puzzles: these exercises working memory, planning and attention.
  3. Yoga and meditation: this develops sustained attention, reduce stress and improve decision making.
  4. Board games such as mind trap: this works on flexible thinking, inhibition and sustaining your attention.
  5. Mine craft: this works on working memory, attention and inhibition.

Kids with learning difficulties have some big emotions to manage as a result of their learning difficulty. Catch Up Kids can help teach emotional regulation


Catch Up Kids can assist your child in developing and maintaining resilience which is vital in fulfilling full academic potential in the classroom.


A great way to integrate confidence building into play, and to integrate spelling and sight words into play


Learning how to spell words is one of the most useful and important lifelong skills that our learners can acquire. Even though we are living in a technological age with spell checks and the like, knowing how to spell plays an important role in reading and writing.  Readers need to understand phonics as well as knowledge of sight words. You’ll find that in our e-classroom language units, spelling practice is a weekly task. Our problem as teachers lies in how to get spelling rules to stay in our learners’ memories. Here are fifteen great ideas for you to practice using in class to make spelling a fun and enjoyable experience. You can adapt these ideas and add your own accordingly!

ACTIVITIES THAT INVOLVE WRITING

  1. Look-Cover-Say-Write-Check

Let’s start with the most basic method that we all probably use regularly: Look-Cover-Say-Write-Check. In this method of learning to spell the learners look at a word and cover it with their hand. They then say the word before writing it. After writing it they check. If the word is incorrect, they start the process again.

  1. Flashcard spelling
    In this activity, you would have the spelling words written out on flashcards. The learners write in their books. You show the learners a word and then hide it. The learner writes it down.  At the end, you can show them the words and they either tick their correct words or correct their incorrect words.
  2. Spelling scramble
    In this activity, the learners fold a page into three columns. In the first column, they write their words as you call them out. In the second column, they jumble up the letters in the words. They use scissors and cut off the first column.  Later in the day or the next day, they try to unscramble the words they wrote.

ACTIVITIES THAT INVOLVE DRAWING

  1. Spiral spelling
    In this activity, the learners draw a spiral on a piece of paper. Start in the middle and then draw about three rows of a spiral.  The learners then write out their words five times each around the spiral. They start on the outside of the spiral. The repeated action of writing out the word helps it to stick.
  2. Spelling scribble
    The learners draw one of those attractive scribble designs that have enough place for them to write in their spelling words. They do these five times using different colours each time. This results in an attractive, colourful scribble picture.
  3. Graffiti Wall spelling
    The learners draw a wall with four rows with three bricks in each. As you call out the spelling words, the learners write them graffiti style using colour and different fonts in the brick tiles of the wall.
  4. Spiders web spelling

The learners draw a spider’s web. They then write their words in the spaces in the web five times each.  They can use colour if desired – a different colour for each group of words.

  1. Colourful spelling
    The first time the learners write the word they write it in pencil. The second time they write it in crayon. The third time they write it with a coloured pen or a marker.

SPELLING GAME THAT INVOLVES MOVEMENT

  1. Spelling hopscotch
    Draw the hopscotch pattern outside using chalk. Number the squares from 1 – 8.  numbering the squares from 1 to 8. As you call a word, the learners jump the hopscotch pattern. When they get to the top they turn around and spell the word. You can say ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. They jump back to the beginning and spell the word again. If they get it right they gain a point. The player with the most points wins.
  2. Air writing
    As you call out a spelling the learners write it in the air with their pointy finger, and they whisper the letters as they write. This can also be done in the form of back writing. Place the learners in pairs. They take turns writing on each other’s backs as you call out the words.
  3. Bounce a ball spelling
    Give each pair of learners a ball. They take it in turns to bounce the ball and spell the words as you call them out. They use one bounce per letter.
  4. Catch the ball spelling
    Place the learners in pairs and give each pair a ball. They could roll the ball to one another or throw the ball to each other after they have spelt a word that you call out. A variation of this would be for the learners to just say the 1st letter and throw the ball. `the partner says the 2nd letter and throws back the ball etc.

13.Spelling Word Race
For this activity, you divide the class into two teams and you use the white or green board. One player from each term takes part at a time. That player takes the pen or the chalk, depending on the board. When a word is called out, they race to the board to see who can write it first. `the winning team gains a point.

  1. The Invisible Man spelling game
    This is a team spelling game. Divide the class into two teams. Each team draws a stick figure on the board with the same number of parts. Give each team a word to spell in turn. In this game, the team tries to make their team ‘‘invisible’ before the other team does by erasing a part of the body when they spell a word correctly. The stick figure remains unchanged if the word is spelt incorrectly. The first team to make his man invisible wins!
  2. Sitting in a circle spelling
    The class sits in a big circle or smaller circles. As you call out a word, each person spells one letter of the word. Then the next word is called out, and the next few learners spell the word one letter at a time.

Your learners should have a lot of fun with these spelling activities. Why not try one activity each week and see how it affects our learners’ spelling?

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As if LEGOs weren’t enough of an awesome childhood toy, one teacher has found another awesome educational/developmental use for this super-toy – as a math education aid! Alycia Zimmerman, a 3rd-grade teacher in New York, uses them to explain fractions, squares and other mathematical concepts.

“In the classroom, the tiny bricks are now my favorite possibility-packed math manipulative,” she writes in an article for Scholastic that goes more into depth about these bricks’ potential uses.

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