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Early Math Skills to Help Your Child Develop

Early math skills tend to be overlooked by many early learning curriculums. In today’s society, we are focused more on reading and writing than basic math concepts. One study even concluded that on average, preschoolers only spend about 58 seconds of the 6-hour school day on math education.

What is Early Math?

Learning early math skills is the first step to helping your child become proficient in mathematics. Without this solid foundation, children have trouble learning and understanding more advanced skills like addition, and subtraction.

These skills are developed between the ages of 0-4 as children analyze the things around them. While knowing how to verbally count from 0-10 is a step in the right direction, truly understanding basic the numbers and how they work is what early math really entails.

Early Math Skills

Early Math Skills Include:

1) Cardinality

This skill is also called one-to-one correspondence. It is when children can associate the number with the correct amount of objects. An example of this would be children counting out how many oranges are on the table.

When children count this way, they are showing a greater understanding of the number as opposed to counting from 1-10 through rote memorization.

2) Comparing and Grouping

As children group objects together, they are learning how to compare and contrast based on similarities and differences.

This helps children develop an understanding of different shapes, colors, and sizes. It also helps children understand concepts like more, less, and equal.

3) Measurements

Encouraging your child to make measurements is a great way to learn math concepts like height, weight, volume, and even speed.

All of these concepts are easy for children to grasp and provides great foundational knowledge for future mathematical skill using standard units.

4) Spatial Sense

As children maneuver and create structures with different toys, they develop spatial awareness and reasoning.

A major precursor to learning about mathematical geometry is understanding how things fit together and problem-solving when they do not fit together.

5) Patterns

Being able to understand and recognize patterns is an important early math skill. As children identify regular and irregular patterns, they are able to make predictions about what will happen in the future.

This is an important skill to develop as advanced mathematics revolves around patterns.

Early Math Skills

Why Early Math Skills Are Important

According to a widely cited research study, early math skills are actually the number one predictor of later academic success. The second predictor is early reading skills, followed by attention skills.

Providing your child with activities geared toward early math is also an amazing opportunity for cognitive development. Through these activities, children learn to develop important skills like planning, hypothesizing, critical thinking, and problem-solving.

The best way to help your child develop these early math skills is to provide them with the opportunity to learn through play.

6 Easy Activities for Early Math Skills:

Try implementing some of these activities to help improve your child’s math skills and set them up for success down the road.

1) Scavenger Hunt

Creating a mathematical scavenger hunt is a fun and easy way to help improve your child’s comparing, contrasting, and grouping skills.

Including everyday topics on the scavenger hunt is also a great way to help your child learn about their environment.

Some examples of what to include:

  • Find 3 blue toys
  • Figure out which is longer: the couch or the chair
  • Which is bigger: the apple or the cantaloupe

2) Constructional Play

Construction toys like building blocks or LEGO sets help children develop spatial awareness and early geometry skills. Through this type, of play children analyze the pieces to try and figure out which shapes fit together, and problem-solve if they do not fit together.

One research study concluded that children who played at a high level of LEGO building in their preschool years actually had greater mathematical success during high school. These students were more likely to be in the honor classes, and they performed better and had higher grades than their peers in the math classes.

Early Math Skills

3) Board Games

According to Parenting Science, if board games have particular features, they can actually be used as a fun tool to boost early math skills.

As children play number-based board games like Candy Land or Chutes and Ladders, they gain a better understanding of what the numbers actually represent. Children who play these games are also less likely to make errors when counting because they understand the order of the numbers.

4) Free Play

Free play has amazing benefits for your developing child. Adding additional resources, like a play cash register, is a great way to encourage children to talk about math and numbers.

Free play is also a great time for parents to talk and ask questions to improve their child’s math literacy. If children are doing arts and crafts, you can use words such as shapes, angles, and edges. If they are playing with building blocks, you can use vocabulary like on top of, above, below, in front, in back, and next to in order to improve their positional language skills.

5) Cooking

Cooking alongside a parent or caregiver is a fun and easy way to expose your child to the mathematical world. This is a great opportunity for them to practice counting, measuring, and estimating.

Try to involve as many resources as you can to make it the best learning experience possible. Showing your child how to use measuring cups, measuring spoons, scales, and other kitchen appliances is one of the best ways to create a solid mathematical foundation.

Early Math Skills

6) Count and Sort

While this may be the easiest activity to set up, it is actually very effective for the development of early math skills.

First, collect a bunch of items from around your house. It can be toys, clothes, hats, buttons, or even food. Then with your child, count and sort based on color, size, and shape.

This is a great opportunity for learning how to compare, contrast, and group based on characteristics. It is also a good time to communicate with your child and use descriptive words to really boost their vocabulary.


You are your child’s first teacher!

Implementing fun learning activities at home is a great way to help your child develop and prepare them for a successful academic career.

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