Sorting Elephants

Sorting and classifying are basic skills taught to children as part of preschool and kindergarten math programs. These activities require children to organize items into groups based on a common characteristic such as size, color, shape, texture, or flavor and also explain why they grouped the items as they did.

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Sorting and classifying are skills that a child will use in all areas of his life at home and in school as he puts away toys, organizes clothes, arranges a locker or empties the dishwasher, for example. Children first learn how to sort items.

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For example, a young child can likely separate a group of plastic figurines into two groups (vehicles and animals, perhaps) before he is able to state the distinction that cars have wheels and animals are living things. As children gain comfort sorting, they are encouraged to explain their thought process in sorting by identifying and naming the characteristic that determines the groups.

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Recognizing groups of objects requires logical thinking, an ability that will be important as your child makes other decisions. Also, understanding the relationship between the different groups and being able to discuss that relationship hones analytical skills. For this activity, we practiced sorting elephants by size. We placed large elephants at the top of the tray and decreased in size as we went down.

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