Early maths skills 1: number sense

3 - 4 years

The development of early maths skills in preschoolers can help them to do better at maths at school. Here are some tips to help your preschooler develop one of the first early maths skills – number sense.

What is number sense?

Number sense is basically the ability to understand numbers and the relationships between numbers. Number sense in preschoolers includes skills and knowledge like:

  • ‘number identification’ – recognising and naming numbers
  • ‘one to one correspondence’ – understanding that when counting each number relates to one specific thing being counted
  • ‘stable order’ – knowing that numbers always come in a set order (for example, 2 comes before 3)
  • ‘cardinality’ – knowing that the last number counted is the number of objects
  • ‘magnitude’ – recognising that higher numbers reflect larger quantities

What can you do?

There are lots of things you can do to support your child to develop number sense. Try these simple activities to help your little one develop their early maths skills.

  • Count the number of socks with your little one as you hang them up on the washing line.
  • Point out the street numbers on the houses you pass as you go for a walk.
  • Talk about how we use money (coins and notes) to pay for things.
  • Use a wall chart the measure and record the height of everyone in your family.
  • Look for numbers when you’re out with your littlie – for example, number plates or the aisles in the grocery store.
  • Count out the items you need (forks, plates, glasses) to set the table for family dinner.
  • Count how many times you can throw a ball to each other without dropping it.

Any opportunity you can find to talk about and use numbers will help your preschooler develop their number sense, and set them up well for the maths they will learn at school.

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Last modified
18 April 2020