Developing Number Sense in Young Children

Posted on April 30, 2019 : Posted in Legacy Academy

Long before they are learning to multiply or divide, young children begin to recognize and understand numbers. Unlike letters and sounds that are used for reading, numbers are really symbols that refer to something else. This can confuse young learners and even stump parents when they try to explain. By including your child in simple number-related activities, you lay the foundation for their future study of mathematics. This is what educational experts call “number sense” in young children.

Defining Number Sense

Number sense is far more than counting. In fact, memorizing the numbers in order won’t help a child learn mathematics without number sense. Number sense is an understanding of the relationships between a number and the quantity it represents. In other words, when a child says the number “two,” number sense implies that the child is connecting that word to a quantity of two objects. This connection between the name of a quantity and the actual amount enables children to do arithmetic, estimate, measure, and understand the concepts of more and less. Number sense in young children is developed through exposure to numbers in many different contexts. By simply pointing out numbers throughout your day, you can increase your child’s number sense and mathematical understanding.

Count Whenever You Can

Counting abstractly is good for memorization, but to develop number sense in young children, you must count concrete items. Thankfully, there are opportunities to count all around you. You can ask your child to count the bananas in a bunch, the birds in the yard, or the Braves players out on the ballfield. Each time you count together, try to point or touch each item as you say the number. This clarifies the one-to-one correspondence between the number and the quantity before you. Books are an especially great place to practice this skill since they are easy to touch and typically contain all sorts of illustrations to count.

Match Numbers to Quantities

Challenge your child to match spoken or written numbers to quantities. For example, if you ask your child to bring you their shoes for the day, ask specifically for two shoes. Even if your child doesn’t take the time to count shoes, their brains will automatically connect the number of shoes with the word two. Conversely, give your child a number along with any amount you give to them. Tell them you have ten raisins for them or four books from the library. Every time you match a specific number to a quantity your child encounters, you develop their number sense.

Add and Take Away One

Try asking your child to add or take away one from the quantities you encounter. For example, if you give them ten raisins and they eat one, ask how many are remaining. Or using the example of a Braves baseball game, once you have counted the nine players in sight, ask them how many would be playing if one more joined the field. Making small jumps like this gives your child a grasp on how numbers and quantities are related to one another, which is essential for number sense in small children.

Multisensory Exploration

It will benefit your child any time you can encourage them to explore numbers with multiple senses. Counting things that they can move and touch will give their brain far more input to process than just looking or hearing. In addition to counting, try asking your child to guess which group has more or less between two options. Start with very obvious differences and then work your way to similar groupings. Again, this emphasizes the relationships of quantities which will serve them well later as they study mathematics.

Many parents feel comfortable teaching children the building blocks of reading through letters and phonetic sounds. However, the same caregivers are often unsure of how to encourage number sense in young children beyond counting. By using these simple techniques throughout your regular day, your child will gain numerical understanding and be well-equipped for elementary school mathematics. Are you looking for childcare in a place that encourages number sense in fun and playful ways from an early age? Consider Legacy Academy Roswell. Call or visit today for more information.