The Greer Meister Group

Foundations By Five
Part 3


In this series, we explore ways to provide our youngest learners with a strong foundation in literacy and numeracy before they go to school.

In part three, we‘re exploring activities that foster numeracy from birth by providing your child with an introduction to one-to-one correspondence that will build a strong mathematical foundation before she or he goes to school.

In part two, we shared four easy activities to encourage early readers, ages 12 months to 5 years, in just five minutes per day.

In part one, we looked at the first steps that any family can take to foster literacy from birth.


Numbers tell us how many, but they don’t tell us what.

The number 5, by itself, is an abstract concept. Five cookies, on the other hand, are very concrete for a child.

That difference is the reason that we talk about “one-to-one correspondence” as a necessary foundation for our youngest learners.

What is one-to-one correspondence?

Understanding one-to-one correspondence means understanding that a number represents a quantity of objects. Many young children memorize their counting numbers, and they can recite, “1, 2, 3, 4, 5…” and so on without understanding what those numbers represent, in the same way that many young children can recite the alphabet without understanding the phonemes of each letter, which we discussed in Part 2. Just as a child who can recite her whole alphabet from memory can’t read without knowing the corresponding phonemes, a child who can recite his counting numbers into the hundreds still can’t explore math without first understanding one-to-one correspondence.

How do we foster one-to-one correspondence in our youngest learners?

Here are three simple activities that you can use to foster one-to-one correspondence at home:

  • When we teach kids to count, we touch the objects that we are counting and encourage them to do the same. Touching a tangible object helps them make the connection that the number means a quantity.
  • Remember the sandpaper numerals that we discussed in Part 2? Write the name of a number on one side of the clothespin and draw the corresponding number of dots on the other side. Make a game of matching each clothespin to the corresponding sandpaper numeral. Your littlest learner is beginning to associate the word, numeral, and quantity.
  • Here is a fun, DIY, at-home math game:
    1. Write a number in the bottom of each well of an ice-cube tray, egg carton, or muffin tin.
    2. Buy or make a corresponding die. You can use a die with dots or numerals. Better yet – play both ways!
    3. Fill a bowl or bag with crafting pompoms or buttons or any other small item that will be appealing to your child (but won’t go in her mouth!).
    4. Take turns rolling the die and placing the correct number of items in the corresponding space in your tray.

Can my toddler really learn math? Shouldn’t I focus on reading?

Children often have an innate mathematical sense long before they demonstrate reading readiness. Don’t believe it? Offer your toddler a choice between a plate with one cookie on it and a plate with four cookies on it. Which will she choose? That sense of “greater than” and “less than” is math!