BIG numbers for LITTLE kids

Is there anything cuter than hearing your preschooler read a really large number?

Hyperlexic children like my son often have an incredible interest in numbers (What is Hyperlexia?).  The bigger the number, the more digits it has…Which means at our house, the more numbers, the merrier!  Who here doesn’t love a googol?!? (Can You Count to a Googol? (Aff link))

When we are talking about preschoolers playing around with big numbers, we are usually talking about their ability to read and possibly write large numbers.

Even preschoolers who don’t have hyperlexia can come to enjoy large numbers and can begin to establish a strong foundation for ordering numbers. Today, we used numbered popsicle sticks to explore big numbers in more detail.

We started by numbering our popsicle sticks with numbers from 0-9.  Colored popsicle sticks add an extra element of fun here!

We then separated them by number for easier access.  I used popsicle containers to hold the sticks, and they proved great for not tipping over.

We started with some free play with the number sticks.  What numbers could we create?  I offered my preschooler a piece of playdough to put his number sticks into.

He began by working from right to left.  This made for an easy introduction to experiment with what he knows about place value.  He started with 0 in the ones category, then added a 4 in the tens place.   We then read the number together: 40!  Then he added an 8.  Now we have 840!  We continued this process until he placed all the numbers he wanted. We utilized this free number play a few times until we moved on to a prescribed number.

Here my preschooler is doing the same thing with a number I picked for him.  He placed them on the card first, and then we read the number as he placed it on the playdough.

Both activities were fun for him, and both allowed me to examine his understanding of place value.

Children may read and write large numbers, but they may not yet have a full grasp of place value, or they may not have developed a sense of what these big numbers actually MEAN.  And at this age, that is fine!  But to help enrich your child’s understanding of big numbers, as opposed to just basic recognition, we like to go above and beyond his obsession with just reading and writing numbers.

The following books were helpful to us in our discussion:

Millions, Billions, and Trillions: Understanding Big Numbers

How Big is a Million?

How Much is a Million?  

We have the large version of this book, but the paperback version is available here: How Much is a Million? (Aff link)

Further, if you’d like to add a little music, you might also like “Zeroes” by They Might Be Giants! (Aff link to the Mp3).  It is a perfect addition for exploring this topic!

Does your child love big numbers?  What are some fun things you do to explore them and to extend their understanding of number sense and place value?


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