Children's Math Development

Here's a look at how children develop math skills, age by age - and how you can help them along the path to math! 


A Child May

0 to 2

  • use all her senses to identify familiar objects and people around her.
  • begin to predict and anticipate sequences of events.
  • notice cause-and-effect relationships.
  • begin to classify objects in a simple but thoughtful manner-for example, toys that roll, toys that don't.
  • use language to classify objects according to basic characteristics, such as type (toy animals, blocks). begin to use relationship words and comparative language, such as bigger and under.
  • begin to understand the concept of numbers.

2 to 3

  • begin to understand the concept and use of numbers-she realizes, for example, that when she counts her crackers, each is given one number.
  • count three or four objects, but then count the same object twice or skip objects.
  • understand many directional and relational words, such as straight and behind.
  • be able to fit large puzzle pieces into place, demonstrating an understanding of the relationships between geometric shapes.
  • notice patterns in the things he sees and hears.
  • be able to make cause-and-effect predictions.

3 to 4

  • recognize and look for geometric shapes in the environment.
  • enjoy sorting and classifying objects, usually by only one characteristic at a time - color, shape, size.
  • begin to classify things by their uses.
  • notice and compare similarities and differences.
  • use words to describe size and quantity relationships - "My bowl is the biggest! "

4 to 5

  • enjoy playing games involving numbers.
  • struggle with classifications that aren't obvious.
  • count objects or people up to 10 or 20 with less skip-counting or double counting.
  • understand that symbols represent complex patterns.
  • solve multiple-piece puzzles by recognizing and matching geometric shapes.
  • use concepts such as height, size, and length to compare objects.

5 to 6

  • begin to be able to add small numbers in his head but still be most comfortable adding real objects he can actually touch and move.
  • classify objects according to more than one characteristic-sorting the round and blue blocks and the red square ones.
  • have a long attention span for activities that interest him.
  • use positional words to explain spatial relationships.

This article originally appeared in the January, 2001 issue of Early Childhood Today.