Conservation of Numbers

Conservation of numbers means that a person is able to understand that the number of objects remains the same even when rearranged.  Try this with your Kindergarten child.  Most Kindergartners are not able to correctly do this.

  • Make 2 equal rows of 8 objects in front of your child.
  • Make them both equally spread out so that they look exactly the same to your child.
    • X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X
    • X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X
    • Ask your child to count the top row
    • Ask your child to count the bottom row
    • Ask your child if the rows are the same
      • (the answer is YES)

Now take the row of 8 objects closest to your child and spread them apart so that the row looks different from the top row:

X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X

X     X     X     X     X     X      X     X

Ask your child if both rows are the same now and chances are the answer will now be NO.  This means that your child does not have conservation of numbers. Most children are not able to do this until around age 7.  Before age 7 children believe that the number of objects increases or decreases just by moving the objects around.  Children who do not have conservation of numbers are not ready for addition and subtraction and do not understand what they are doing when they drill addition and subtraction facts at home.  Put the addition and subtraction worksheets away and if you wish to do math with your child talk about numbers in a concrete way.  Use everyday objects (towels for baths, utensils for the table, socks, etc) to have conversations with your child about addition and subtraction without using paper and pencils.


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