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“Dear Teacher” is a monthly education column written by experienced educators and parents.

How to Introduce Numbers to a Preschooler

Question: What are some things that I can do with my preschooler to help her learn how to read and write her numbers? — Want to Teach

Learning numbers on a blackboardAnswer: Before you start teaching your daughter to read and write numerals, you should make sure that she has developed the concept of numbers through sorting, ordering and counting activities. They can be as simple as sorting socks or M&M’s, ordering books by height, or rote counting to learn the names of the numbers. When this is accomplished, she is ready to start reading numerals first, then writing them.

Mathematicians use the word “numeral” for the written symbol of a number. Children must learn that when they see the symbol “6,” they say the word “six” and are talking about a set of six things. The following are some good activities for you and your daughter:

  • Back Scratchers: Take your finger and trace the outline of a numeral on your child’s back. Have your child tell you the number.
  • Playing Cards: Shuffle the cards and turn them face up one at a time (in the beginning use only the cards up to the number 5). Have your daughter point to the numeral in the corner of the card and say its name, then count the number of hearts, etc., on the card.
  • Index Cards, a Paper Bag and Glue: Write a numeral on each index card with glue. After the cards dry, you will have a set of raised numerals. Place the cards in the bag, have your daughter reach in and select a card and tell you the numeral without looking.
  • Sandbox:  Ask your child simple questions like how many feet do you have? Have your child write the numeral in a cake pan with some sand.

Time to Test Children for ADHD

Question: I have heard mixed opinions about whether you can or cannot test young children age 2 to 4 for ADHD (attention deficit/hyperactive disorder). Do you have any information? — Need to Know

Answer: According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children as young as 4 can be tested for ADHD. However, few children are diagnosed with this disorder before elementary school, as it is difficult to get a diagnosis before children are 5. Nevertheless, an early diagnosis can improve ADHD symptoms in preschoolers who receive behavioral therapy and/or low doses of medication. It also helps for parents to enroll themselves in a support group.

Keep in mind that many of the symptoms of ADHD are seen in young children. It is normal for preschoolers to have a high level of activity, an inability to focus for long periods of time and impulsivity. However, young children with ADHD are far more hyper and impulsive. They are on the go almost all the time and are not likely to take naps or sit still for meals or other activities.

When parents suspect that their children have ADHD, the solution is to get a diagnosis from a doctor. It is possible that the child’s behavior is due to some other problem, such as vision, hearing or fine-motor difficulties. All of these problems can make it hard for a child to behave. To make a diagnosis, the doctor will need a detailed description of a child’s behavior from his or her parents as well as others who play an important role in the child’s life.

Finding a New School

Question: We are moving across country and will soon be looking for a new place to live. Naturally, finding a good school district will play a big role in our decision about where to buy a home, as we have three children in elementary school. Do you have any suggestions for ways to learn more about schools in districts that the realtors suggest to us? – Searching

School Bus

School Bus

Answer: It is getting very easy to find out how schools perform academically. Most State Departments of Education have this information on their websites. In addition, some states have even rated all their schools. Plus, a school or its district office will have accurate information on test scores and student-teacher ratios.

Furthermore, there are absolutely loads of websites for major cities that compare schools by such things as test scores, school environment, student-teacher ratio and much more. One caution: Some sites that compare schools are based more on opinions rather than facts. Another possibility is talking to parents in school districts in the immediate area where you are considering buying a home. Do try to talk to several parents to get a range of opinions.

Finally, there is no substitute for visiting a school before making a final decision on where you want to live. At a minimum, you will want to do the following things:

  • Observe the outside area around the school to see if it is in good order.
  • Take a quick look at the halls and bathrooms.
  • Note how the students behave between classes. Are they orderly?
  • How are individual classrooms decorated?
  • See as much as you can about how students are interacting with each other and teachers and administrators.

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About Author

Peggy Gisler and Marge Eberts have taught at every level from kindergarten through college and have co-authored more than 100 books. They have also been in the trenches getting six children through school. Their children have run the gamut, from being in gifted and talented programs to special education resource rooms. Because of their experiences, they see themselves as interpreters between parents and schools as they have been on both sides.

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