October 2021 Newsletter – Math in the Early Years: Pre-math Skills in Early Childhood

Pre-math Skills in Early Childhood

One of the recommendations from NAEYC and the National Council for Teachers of Mathematics is:

  • Ensure that the curriculum is coherent and compatible with known relationships and sequences of important mathematical ideas.

Long before children learn to add, subtract, multiply, and divide, foundational skills must be set in place. Like all other skills, children explore and learn these skills at their own pace. In many cases, skills build on previously understood concepts so teachers must work with individual children to promote play and exploration of these important skills.  It is also true that the skills themselves compound to become more complex. Teachers should be sure that the math tasks they are encouraging children to do are aligned with individual children’s abilities.

Here is a look at a few pre-math skills that are common in early learning environments:

  • Matching is the ability to identify items that are the same. Children may begin by recognizing that items are the same color, then progress to matching by size, shape, quantity, and other characteristics.
  • Geometry begins with recognizing the attributes of and identifying basic shapes.
  • Sorting and classifying occurs when children begin to compare and contrast objects and placing them in groups based on different characteristics. Children begin by sorting objects by one characteristic and progress to sorting by multiple characteristics.
  • Patterning is the way that children organize objects into designs. Children typically begin by recognizing and recreating patterns they notice around them before creating their own patterns.
  • Sequencing is the skill of putting things into a particular order. The observation skills that children learn through less complex pre-math skills will help them recognize attributes of objects. Through comparing and contrasting, children can then organize materials based on size or length. Sequencing also happens during story-telling as children begin to tell stories from beginning to middle to end.
  • Estimating is using observation skills to make an informed guess about an object. For example, seeing a pile of blocks, children could try to guess which bin will be big enough to hold all of the blocks. Eventually, children will be able to estimate the number of objects.
  • Counting typically begins with rote memorization of the order of the words associated with quantity. You have probably met a child who could count to ten but didn’t understand what “ten” meant.
    • One-to-one correspondence is the ability to assign each object being counted with the correct number. A child may say, “I am three years old” while touching each of the five fingers on his hand. They begin to grasp the skill when they touch one finger for each number spoken, up to the number three.
  • Measuring involves using traditional and non-traditional tools to determine details about objects, such as weight, size, length, and amount.

In addition to these foundational skills, children will also come to understand conservation, representation of numbers, fractions, time, and data collection and organization.

For the main article Math in the Early Years, CLICK HERE

For the article NAEYC’s Recommendations for High-Quality Math Learning, CLICK HERE

For the article Using the Language of Math, CLICK HERE

For the article Math Across the Curriculum, CLICK HERE