In a related article on Math Anxiety (fear in math), one legitimate cause of it is that building blocks are missing. Without the basic foundations, a child's background on the subject is weak and therefore that child will experience difficulty in advancing to more complicated lessons. Other reasons for Math Anxiety are Math is thought of as boring, takes too much time and is just too complicated.
Math is generally abstract, and we as adults tend to over-think how to promote mathematical thinking in children. But really, mathematical concepts are disguised in simple hands-on activities. Here are some math activities we, Childstart teachers, integrate in our classroom.
We use materials that is interesting for youngsters, like small cars and fruits, for assigning quantities. You may use other more common items, such as pebbles, popsicle sticks, rubber bands, crayons, etc.
Sorting promotes children's ability to organize. And we just about sort everything in school -- by color, size, shape, texture, etc. Clean up time is basically sorting time.
Patterns are everywhere and it doesn't take long before young kids are able to discern them from their environment! We use chains, beads and strings, and other items to improve patterning skills.
As the children play with blocks/ 3D shapes, tangrams, and other manipulatives they start fitting them together to create buildings, houses, cars and other objects that make sense to them.
Various math concepts are integrated into our learning themes, like Home and Family, as seen on the photo.