Wooden tunnels in ascending order of size

Seriation: Putting things in order

Your child is lining things up.

She takes her collection of cars and lines them up in order of length. Or perhaps she arranges coloured blocks from darkest to lightest.

These seemingly simple acts are powerful indicators of a cognitive skill known as seriation – the ability to order objects based on specific attributes such as size, colour, or shape. This ability is one of the first steps along the road to counting and reasoning.

How seriation helps with maths

Peek into any elementary school mathematics classroom, and you’ll find children engaged in spotting patterns, understanding numerical values, and making sense of number sequences. These critical mathematical concepts have their roots in seriation. Here’s how seriation supports foundational math skills:

Number sense

Number sense is our ability to understand, relate to, and be fluent with numbers and mathematical concepts. It is an intuitive understanding of numbers, their magnitude, relationships, and how they are affected by operations (+ – x ÷). This includes a basic understanding of arithmetic, the ability to reason and problem solve with numbers, and the ability to use numbers to make sensible judgments in daily activities.

  • Patterns and sequences. Recognizing and creating patterns in numbers, shapes, and colours
  • Measurement. Comparing length, weight, and size of different objects
  • Geometry. Understanding spatial relationships and properties of shapes

How you can help

As a parent, your daily routine presents countless opportunities to help your child grasp seriation. While organizing your bookshelf, narrate your actions, “I’m placing the smaller books at this end and the bigger ones on the other side. This book is too large for here; it should be right here next to this one.” Such conversations will help your child internalize the concept of seriation and observe it in their everyday environment.

The best toys for seriation

To nurture seriation skills in your child, consider toys that subtly introduce this concept:

  • Wooden rainbows. The unique design of wooden rainbows teaches children to order colours and size, while also promoting creativity.
  • Mini rainbows and tunnels. With fewer pieces to manage, these are ideal for younger children beginning to grasp the concept of seriation.
  • Conical towers. These offer graduated rings to be stacked in a specific order, enhancing both seriation and hand-eye coordination.
  • Sequence puzzles. Alphabet and number puzzles challenge children to complete them in the correct order, reinforcing seriation skills.

Seriation in everyday life

Seriation is not confined to toys and classroom activities; it permeates various aspects of daily life. Your child can practice seriation while organizing nested bowls in the kitchen or arranging family members’ shoes from smallest to largest. Turning these everyday tasks into learning opportunities can make seriation a fun and natural part of your child’s daily routine.

The role of seriation in cognitive development

Seriation not only establishes foundational mathematical skills but also plays a significant role in overall cognitive development. It fosters problem-solving abilities, logical reasoning, and classification skills, all critical for your child’s academic and personal growth.

Creative ways to teach seriation

Making seriation fun can foster a love for learning and mathematics in your child. Engage them in activities such as arranging toys by size during playtime, ordering ingredients by quantity while cooking together, or sequencing family photos by age.

Final word

While seriation might seem like a sophisticated concept, it aligns naturally with children’s inherent curiosity and desire to make sense of their world. The key is to provide ample opportunities and resources that allow them to explore seriation independently. Whether it’s a set of rainbow stacking toys or a simple activity using household items, the joy of discovery will fuel your child’s learning. So sit back, observe, and delight in the fascinating unfolding of your child’s cognitive development.