How Children Learn Math and How You Can Help

Learning math begins in infancy. It’s true. It all starts with seeing differences in objects and people.

For example, when an infant begins to differentiate between Mommy’s face and a teacher’s face, or between the stuffed brown dog and the yellow cat, that’s the start of math learning.

As toddlers, children begin to understand the concept of more and less. They see that that there are more blocks in one basket and fewer in the other basket. Or that their friend has more juice, that one box is full and another is empty, or that one bag is heavy and another light. All these seemingly simple concepts are actually very complex cognitive skills and the foundation for all later math learning.

As children grow into preschool and Pre-K, they learn to quantify more and less. They identify numbers and learn the skill of counting one object at a time. They develop the capacity to connect number and quantity, as in, “There are 4 cookies.”

They also learn that numerals represent numbers, just like letters compose words and words represent real-life objects, people, and ideas. Once they’re able to do this, they can start to add and subtract and then, eventually, multiply and divide those numbers.

Of course this is just a small part of what mathematical learning entails. There’s also sorting and classifying, learning the concepts of shape, area, and volume, and many other skills. As you can see, it all begins during infancy and grows in complexity through early childhood.

That’s where you come in. There are so many wonderful and fun things you can do with your child at home to develop their natural math capabilities. The most important is to give children lots of opportunities to play with and explore a variety of interesting objects.

Want some cool ideas to help math learning with your child? Check out these valuable online resources:

(This post originally appeared on the Tutor Time Learning Together Blog)