Children from a young age can help to set the table for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Here are seven simple but essential mathematical concepts children can learn through helping to set the table.
‘One to one correspondence’ is the skill of matching one number to one object. This seems like a simple skill, but can be difficult for young children to grasp. Setting the table is an ideal task for children to practise simple counting. If your child finds it difficult to count objects correctly, have them match the object with a person, or set the placemats on the table for your child and encourage them to match the cutlery to each placemat. Count with them as they go.
What shape is the placemat? What shape is the plate? What shape is the table? Talk about the shapes you can see on the table and show your child how they are different from each other.
3. Right and Left
Right and left sides can be a challenge for children to remember. Gosh, it can be a challenge for some adults! Show your child how the knife goes on the right hand side and the fork goes on the left hand side. What side is the glass on? What side is the spoon on?
4. Lines and Angles
Show your child how the knife and fork are parallel, and encourage them to place them as straight as possible to reinforce this concept. Line up the placemats so they are straight and show older children how they have a right angle at the corners. What other lines and angles can you find at the table?
An important mathematical concept for children in their first year of school is comparable size. Set out entree cutlery alongside the cutlery for the main meal. Which is shorter? Which is longer? Which plate is smaller and which is larger?
Once all the cutlery and crockery is ready for dinner, have your child check that everybody has the correct setting. Is every table setting equal? It is important for children at the beginning of primary school to grasp the concept of equivalence as it is so important in all mathematics throughout their schooling.
Another important mathematical concept for early learners is simple location language. When everybody is seated at the table, use terms such as ‘next to’ and ‘opposite’ to talk about where people are sitting.