Parent Fact Sheet on Developing Early Number

It’s helpful to know what numbers and counting skills your child should be developing by age 3 or 4. Review the following list of milestones and note how your child is doing in each area. My child:

Is aware of — and curious about — how numbers and counting apply to his life and the world around him.

Can correctly count at least five objects.

Can point to places on a number line and count with 1-to-1 correspondence along the line (from left to right, right to left)

Understands that the written numeral “3” means three objects — and the same with numerals 1-5.

Can add and subtract small numbers of familiar objects. For example: “I have three cookies. You have two. How many do we have all together?”

Can put written numbers (numerals) from 1 to 5 in the correct order, small to large.

Can count from one to ten in the correct order.

Understands concepts of quantity (for example, “more” and “less”) and size (such as, “bigger” and “smaller”) and uses those terms correctly.

Encouraging numbers and counting skills at home

Now that you are aware of some of the basic math skills and concepts your child should have, you can reinforce and build upon these skills. There are many ways you and your child can play with numbers and counting throughout the day. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Show your child how numbers and counting apply to everyday life. Use number words, point out numbers, and involve your child in counting activities as you go through your day. For example: Have your child help you measure ingredients for a recipe by measuring and counting the number of cups or spoonful’s. Talk about how things or amounts are more, less, bigger and smaller, and be sure to praise his efforts and his progress in math awareness.

Collect a variety of materials your child can use for hands-on counting. Old keys, plastic bottle caps, and buttons all work well. Collect them in a bag or jar and pick a time to count and re-count them again and again. (For added fun, offer guesses at the total number of items and see who comes the closest.)

Use items from around the house to experiment with addition, subtraction and “more” and “less” activities.

Read, tell stories, sing songs, and recite poems that include numbers and counting. Try to include books in which characters come and go as the story progresses.

Play simple board games that call on players to count spaces on the board, objects used in the game, and to recognize printed numerals or their representation (such as “dots on dice”).