How Children Learn and Develop Early Math Skills

How Children Learn and Develop Early Math Skills

For many, the joys of mathematics cannot be overstated, especially after solving an initially difficult task. It is also a subject that students need to understand from a young age. Typically, early math skills in children are referred to as “pre-number skills.” This refers to abilities that contribute to mathematical comprehension without necessarily using numbers.

Children need to be taught these fundamental abilities to become mathematically literate and to provide a strong foundation for future learning.

The Importance of Developing Early Math Skills in Children

Early mathematics help create problem-solving, spatial awareness, and numeracy skills, such as learning to count and use numbers. These skills provide the basis for more complex topics that children will learn as they advance through school.

Not only are abilities in problem-solving helpful for furthering one’s mathematical education, but they are beneficial for life, in general. The mathematical abilities acquired in the early grades are transferable to various settings throughout the rest of the educational experience.

Math Milestones by Age Group 

Understanding math milestones by age group can help you recognize if your child is on the right path.

1st Milestone (26 months)

Babies acquire an early sense of numeracy and can recognize whether there is one thing or multiple objects in a basket or bowl from an early age. As they become more curious about the world around them, they also gain an awareness of dimensions such as space, form, and size.

At this age, they begin to take pleasure in participating, reciting numbers in rhymes and songs, and beginning to comprehend ideas such as large vs. small.

Your child will be able to organize their toys and other items into similar groups by the time they are around 26 months old.

2nd Milestone (2-3 years)

Your child has made a significant academic jump! You may have noticed that they can already speak certain number names in sequence, use words to describe things such as large or tiny, differentiate between more and less, and be able to sort and match items.

In addition, your child will recognize repeating patterns in photographs and clothing, and they will be able to recite the events that occur daily, such as I got out of bed, I took breakfast, and I got dressed.

3rd Milestone (3-4 years)

Your bright and inquisitive preschooler is starting to get the hang of number connections and can use certain number names and terms like “more” and “less” while playing. Your child shows an interest in numbers, can recite them in sequence from one to ten (or more!), and will discuss them with you and ask questions about them.

4th Milestone (4-5 years)

Your budding mathematician is beginning to have a heightened awareness of the numbers in their environment. Your child can now recognize numbers, especially those that are significant, such as their age and the number on your house.

You will have a lot of fun discussing real-world concepts such as size, weight, capacity, position, time, and money with your child.

How to Teach Math Skills to Young Children 

It’s easier for children to acquire valuable math skills when they are taught as part of their normal routines. 

Mealtime Learning

Let your young child assist you in setting the table for dinner. Children can learn about one-to-one correspondence, a fundamental idea in mathematics, by ensuring one place setting for each person.

When starting with very young children, it’s a good idea to start with non-breakable objects like forks, spoons, and napkins. Then, when children can handle more delicate things, such as glassware or dinner plates, you may give them the responsibility of arranging a complete place setting.

Asking children to distribute food items during a meal or snack, such as one cookie to each individual, is another way to teach youngsters the concept of one-to-one correspondence.

You might continue the “mealtime math” learning experience to further your instruction on the concepts of more and less. Dad may want two cookies, seeing as two is more than one.

Counting and Recounting: Developing Early Math Skills in Children

Counting through repetition is one of the first forms of mathematical knowledge that children acquire. It’s as easy as reciting a list of numbers that start with zero or one from memory.

Many parents instruct their children in this skill in an unstructured manner by repeating rhymes to them, such as “One, two, fasten my shoe” or “One potato, two potatoes.”

Children can learn to count anything fascinating to them, such as the number of cookies eaten during snack time, the steps on a staircase, or anything else!

Playing Board Games

Once children understand how to count things, you will be ready to introduce them to more straightforward board games. In board games like Chutes, Ladders, and Candyland, players must advance their counter by the corresponding number of spaces shown on the game’s spinning dial.

When playing games with younger children, it is often preferable to keep them short and allow everyone to compete for the prize. Instead of having winners and losers, the game’s objective is to provide youngsters with an opportunity to practice working with numbers. 

When children start kindergarten, they often have a greater interest in contests; nevertheless, toddlers and preschoolers are typically more interested in having the opportunity to play with the other children.

Final Thoughts

These strategies to encourage early math skills in children help introduce them to the language of numbers, to learn through play, and to show them how counting and math fit into their everyday lives. These steps can help children acquire key math skills at an early age, encouraging success now and in later grades. 

Here at Meaningful Beginnings, we make every effort to understand and support your child’s unique personality type. We do not believe in a one-size-fits-all approach to education and childcare. We pay close attention to how our students behave when they are by themselves, playing with others, solving problems, and learning, so we can create an environment where they will thrive.

Contact Meaningful Beginnings to learn how we help our students learn early math skills!

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Emily Pham

Infant Teacher

My name is Emily and I am an infant teacher. My aim with this position is to learn how children develop as unique individuals and learn how to support their holistic growth. I am currently a student at San Francisco
State University majoring in Child and Adolescent Development. With this experience, I am hoping to get a sense on whether I want to continue to work in the classroom or if I want to learn the administrative side of education. The experience of working directly with children is gratifying and I wish to create a safe space for children to explore with all of their senses as they develop their own personalities. I hope to be able to help build a strong foundation so that the children can have the confidence and ability to express themselves.